I have a statement to make regarding the art I’ve been creating over the past few years:
I take photos of people.
I take portraits of people I know, people I don’t know, people in intimate moments, people celebrating, people drunk, people who are upset, people who are on drugs, people sleeping, people laughing, people politically engaging, traces of people, people’s interaction with their environments, gay people, queer, straight people, people in love, people in lust, people of color, people of mixed ethnicities, white people, “alternative” people, “boring” people, people who are emotional, people who are tired, people who are worried, people who can’t necessarily express themselves outwardly.
I photograph people.
I’m a photographer - I document good times, bad times, real moments, important times, sad times, and lack-luster times, all the time.
90% of the time I have at least a point and shoot camera on me.
People are beautiful. All people.
And people are destructive.
I don’t know what it is in my that draws me to document people in all types of situations but I just do. Maybe I get a rush out of it. Maybe it is my drug. Maybe I’m addicted to stimulation and a need for human connection.
In the past I’ve taken pictures of various types of people, as you’ve all know.
Many of you see my work that I post on social media channels and say “omg so good!” “this portrait is great!” or “👍🏼”.
What you see is only the tiny tip of the iceberg. I am VERY conscious of exploitation in photography and art in general. I deal with a sensitivity. I don’t have any agenda but to capture what I see as well as create what I see in my mind.
Let me explain to you, when I post a photo, I struggle with how I should present an image to my social networks. I value the photos and the people, and their stories so much that often I don’t share my work, as some say I should. Sharing my photos on social media never do justice.
I struggle with captions: I can’t simply just put an emoji with a portrait of a BEAUTIFUL INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEING for likes on Instagram. I just can’t - it’s objectifying and belittling.
That’s why in the recent past I tend to simple tag the person I’ve photographed.
Titling a photo in general is even difficult. I understand the ethical dilemma behind taking media out of context and re-appropriating it for one’s own agenda or artistry.
Stop sharing media out of context on social channels. Please, I’m begging you. Political and nonpolitical. It’s so damaging-it’s causing people to divide into extremist groups.
Recently, I have been critiqued for exploiting queer bodies for my own artistic gain. I can reassure you that I don’t just think about these topics but obsess over them to the point where I don’t even want to photograph anyone.
I am not being oversensitive. This is the reality behind what it’s like to be a photographer and artist in present day. It’s important to think this way.
I used to say that I don’t have any ethics while shooting street photos-I was always quoting the infamous Bruce Gilden. But lately I’ve been rethinking everything. It’s a political time and there’s no room for just taking pretty pictures of people. It’s time to share and listen to other’s narratives. We need to do this. This world is dividing and unraveling right before our eyes. It’s time to listen and support.
Today, I spent some time at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago with Tim and Lola to observe Alfredo Jaar’s The Sound of Silence, 2006.
Jaar’s The Sound of Silence centers on the story of Kevin Carter, a photojournalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for a photograph he took of a child in Sudan. Jaar’s work shifts attention away from the photograph itself to what happened before and after, drawing out the human implications and ethical concerns of taking a photograph like this:
The story behind the photo is that Kevin Carter waited for about 20 minutes for the vulture to spread its wings for a more interesting shot. It never happened. After he took the photo Kevin chased the bird away leaving the girl though her parents were getting food from a UN pane near by. He allegedly lit a cigarette and walked away. We don’t know what happened to that girl once he left. The photo was later sold to the New York Times on March 26, 1993 where it was massively distributed and critiqued.
Though Carter won a Pulitzer, the media’s critique for the vulture photo as well as the hunting images of war caused him to commit suicide July 27th 1994.
This piece really impacted me and moved me to elaborate how I share my art with others. Please take the time to visit this installation if you’re creating art of any kind. It’s important.
Moving forward: I will attempt to express the emotions, the stories, the intimacy of the photographs I take and share. People are beautiful, but we cannot just take surface level photos of them anymore to appropriate them for social channels and cool websites.