Just to touch each other

I studied photography. I take pictures. I have an MFA graduation certificate that says so.

I never say “I am a photographer”. Photography is a set of tools and techniques that are used by many different people for many different reasons – sell a sweater on Ebay, document their kids’ activities, play dress-up, or whatever else. This is an activity that wants to be a verb, not a noun, nor a descriptor for a person.

I’ve also found the description ‘artist’ fairly useless if self-assigned. Almost a million people claim the profession ‘artist’ on their tax return. Like comedy, art is in the eye of the beholder.

Then, what exactly is it that I do?

I don’t take pictures with a camera to say “I was here” or “this happened” or “I saw this” or “look at me” or “buy this”.

I only take pictures of people, mostly strangers. Strangers who need pictures of themselves, for one reason or another. Like, they want to find someone who will find them attractive, desirable and lovable. And as a photographer, my look will be the proxy for that someone’s eye. I will take pictures that exude attraction, desire and love.

Why do I takes these pictures?

Because I think that photography is built on an illusion, a sleigh of hand, and I want to show it. If I look at a person in a picture, three people are really involved: the person in the picture, the photographer and the viewer. A “professional”, “successful” picture creates the illusion that there is no photographer, that somehow you are looking into a person’s soul  – or some other communion.

What a picture really is, is a document of a very different kind of relationship. The act of portrait photography is fundamentally just this awkward, muddled interaction – two insecure human beings looking at each other. Photographers across the ages have done a great job covering up this strange truth, with ever more elaborate props, poses and staging. I am really interested in stripping all that away, and letting some of that discomfort and vulnerability show through again. To see what happens when people let down their guard and just look at each other.

Barbara Kruger taunted in her famous 1981 collage of jostling men in business suits: ‘You construct intricate rituals which allow you to touch the skin of other men.’ Photography is just an intricate ritual that allows me to look at someone and for someone to look at me.

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