I am grateful that you have visited my blog. I hope your visit is a successful one. Please feel free to comment, contact or otherwise interact with the site and with me. I'm beginning to spread my wings photographically, so please take a look at Paul's Photos on Flickr (on the right). which will lead you to my presence on Flickr. Again, your comments, feedback or whatever are very welcome. Let us assist each other in our pursuit of our own truth, our own Dreaming. Peace!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Truth? Fiction? Or something in between?

Some of my friends are aware that recently I have become (for the umpteenth time as they say) once again interested in photography. Unlike those many other times, however, I seem to be taking it quite seriously and have actually sold a few (not many, alas) photos through a photo agency. I could even venture to say I am actually learning how to take better pictures. Now, that is a turn up for the books as they say (I mean who is the 'they' that says these things? I mean, really?).

At the same time, my acquisition of a couple of high quality lenses (and thank you here is due to my wonderful partner who is amazingly insightful of my needs and skills and extraordinarily generous as well) has pushed me to explore an old love: Street Photography, or as it is known to its devotees, SP. I have spent many many hours exploring SP websites, Flickr groups, online videos and blogs. It's a fascinating genre and one that has got me really thinking deeply about all kinds of things, from truth in picture taking to story telling, to ethics. As I say, all kinds of stuff.

Take this guy for an example. When I posted this photo on my Facebook site and on the Flickr groups I have joined I called the image "Shaded Reflections of a Country Man". Why I called it thus should be fairly obvious I think: he's wearing a "cowboy" type hat, he's got a beard and he has dark shades which accounts for the shaded reflections bit of the title.

I spotted this man as I sat and photographed a really groovy band outside a pub during a recent Celtic Festival in my town. He was pretty engrossed in the scene and he seemed to be really digging the music. He moved seats a couple of times, always avoiding tables at which other people were sitting. In other words I made an assumption that he was a quiet kind of guy, a loner really, just out for a beer and to listen to some live music. I guess this also is referenced by the shaded reflections bit of the title and attests to the cleverness of my captioning!

But, how much, if any, of this is true? I mean, how do I know he is a country man? How do I know he's reflecting? In truth I only know my own guesses, my own assumptions about this fellow. And for an artist who is seeking to find and to tell the truth this brings up some fundamental issues. Do I have a right to "brand" this guy with my own story? Wouldn't I have been wiser and more honest had I talked to him, to have him tell me his story? Did I have the right to be taking his photo in the first place?

All good questions, and I have no hope of answering them here and now. Nor do I really wish to do so. Not now anyway. I make certain assumptions as I go about my artistic practice; what I mean is, I am directed by a set of guiding principles. Two of the biggies are, do no harm, and try at least to tell or record some essence of the truth. On the first, this image passes without a worry: I have not hurt this man; nor has titling the image in the way I have been harmful to him. I suspect any person of good will would get a chuckle at the very least out of being photographed and labelled in this way.

On that second criterion, however, I am on shakier ground. I have recorded his "physical" image just as he was that day. No problem there. But what if he isn't a country man? What if he didn't have a thought in his head (ie no reflections)? What if he isn't a loner but merely out alone? What if it's all a total fiction? Well, we can't know the answers here can we?

There is one way we could find out isn't there? This guy, or someone who knows him, just might come across his image, which is now spread far and wide across the WWW. Then we might meet him and know his story. His true story.

Now, I personally would very much welcome that contact. In the meantime, the very idea is a trip isn't it? And, for a second meantime, I continue to ask the hard questions. The answers will or won't come as they are meant to.

Peace and love to you all

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