Sunday, October 10, 2010

Glimpse of Myra: To "Take" a Picture

As I am taking in all of my data and making sense of my different avatars I want to re-post something I wrote on the byu field study blog about the ethics of "taking" a picture.  It was one of the most valuable (and surprising) lessons I learned in the field.

"Take" A Picture

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Up till now I had not given much consideration to the word “take” in “taking a picture.” I’ve done it my entire life. I’ve even created a job for myself out of it, but here in Ghana I am forced to wrestle with what it means.

After weighing the advice of my mentor and my own better judgment, I still chose to haul my professional D700 across four continents in search of the National Geographic image. I was mortified to discover that my disappointments have come not from water damage, weight issues, or theft, but in my own inability to snap a picture.

The challenge is not the aperture or the shutter speed. Not my ISO and not my white balance. It is from getting my fancy camera out of my bag and stealing an image of someone I don’t know, or of something that I don’t really understand, with little intention of giving anything back in return. It is hard to justify, and I now understand why it took Stephanie (the Nt. Geo photographer from the prep class) eight months before she could access the community. With minimal language skills I can only imagine how long it would take me to get the image I thought I was setting out to take.

When I started taking pictures of the goats and the ceiling fan I knew something had to give. So I’ve had a new idea. As part of my project I still need to be a photographer, but I’m mixing it up. I’m taking one picture every hour on the hour. It isn’t pretty. I still cringe with embarrassment when I watch my group members look through my images. I have to remind myself not to edit them in a frantic, abysmal attempt to salvage the composition, but I think it will add an interesting flavor to my project on the authenticity of experience.

I may not come home with a single picture for my portfolio, but I’m coming back with something better. As Maggie keeps reminding us, “Even if your project plummets, you won’t fail your experience.” So here is my shout out to having some expectations unmet, and some surpassed, and my new-found appreciation for flexibility in the field. I just wish I had more time to go through and read all of the other posts and comment on them, but it might have to wait till we get back.

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