Perceiving photography


General Photography

Melanie McWhorter just published a post in which she mentions a detail of a talk Alec Soth gave in New Mexico: “At one point, he said that one fellow Magnum photographer, who I will not mention here, viewed his work as mean-spirited. He left this description with very little detail in the beginning, but when he reached a particular image, he said this is the one that sparked the comment.”

When I read this I knew immediately which photo it would be, and Mel confirmed it with her following sentence. Of course, I don’t agree that there’s anything mean-spirited about the photo. In fact, had it been available I would have included it in Bare.

The reason why I wanted the photo in the show was because I thought the image might be a bit provocative (but not overly so). The pose of the man in the photo embodies what I was after with the show. To me, his posture says: “You gotta look at me. This is me. I don’t look like the models you see on TV, but I’m not ashamed of my body. I like my body, and I like myself. I’ve got nothing to hide.”

Regardless of whether you agree with that unnamed Magnum photographer or not, Mel’s post is a timely reminder that photography doesn’t not happen only between a photographer and a sitter - there is also the viewer; and as a photographer you could ask yourself the kinds of questions Mel mentions in her post.

Needless to say, there are many problems you have to tackle as a photographer, one of the most important ones might center on “intention”. I’ve always wanted to publish what I wrote a while ago about photographers’ intentions - maybe I’ll do it some day…