Ten levels of INTIMACY that relate my camera to the world. The first three were:
1 A WORLD WITHOUT PEOPLE
2 THE WORLD WITH LASTING SCARS
3 THE REMOTE WORLD OF SHADOWS AND SILHOUETTES
(see the preceding 3 blogs)
To understand the beauty of this planet
I BECOME AN INVISIBLE DOCUMENTARIST OF OTHER’S LIVES
I have photographed and filmed in many situations; some private and delicate, others large and violent. It is very rare that anyone seems to notice the camera, and therefore me. Of course, there have been many times when a person or I wanted direct contact, in which case I became involved in a form of portraiture. I believe my invisibility is down to the following. That I appear at best, friendly, and at worse, unthreatening; that people see I am respectful rather than judgemental (unless I am with politicians), and I believe, they sense that in the least, I am not stealing something from them (their image, identity or souls) and at most, I have, or at least pretend to have an unstated right to be there working.
This is in part because usually I don’t feel separated on the level of our common humanity. Relative education, wealth, class, language are, at that level, irrelevant to our being able to emotionally touch each other. Also, early in my career, I became committed to wanting to offer a voice to those without, and to make the invisible worlds of power and wealth, become visible through my work. With those objectives in mind, I believe I have claim, if not a right, to be present in their lives for a moment.
I have learned to dress in dark, unremarkable clothes; I have learned to move slowly and with little noise; I have tried to not reveal a strong emotional response while not appearing callous to hardship. The nub of this is I become boring, an uninteresting specimen of our race. Often I see an action and wait until the expected or repeated event again takes place within the frame. This means that for several minutes I may be a frozen statue in a space, not moving, not stalking but patiently waiting. It is perhaps this that has led people to comment that they’re certain I’m a professional.
LEARNING TO BE IGNORED
I believe it is true to say that as soon as a camera enters a space, people consciously react to its presence and in some ways, change their actions and attitudes. But as I listen and watch for a while, and follow the above practice, by the time I’m shooting, people have lost interest in my being amongst them, as in the attached photograph, (a movement workshop led by Anna Golding, at the Bridport Youth and Community Centre). When people are engaged in their own lives and activities, they can easily forget the camera is present, or if not forget, then disregard it in favour of the people and actions they’re taking an active role in.
In a week or so, I will announce two interactive talks to be given on two Saturdays towards the end of February. The first will join up a number of ways of thinking about making and using photographs to be useful in one’s community. The second will be about how to use video to tell stories, again to help transforms peoples lives.This is leading on to the worldwide release of my recent documentary, THIS GOOD EARTH.
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