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identity kits and photography - Accretions

Fata Morgana
2004-10-20 01:31
identity kits and photography
Public
I can't remember how I heard about it, but recently I discovered the "Identity Kits" project. Much of the visual studies literature depicts the act of photographing as implicitly condoning that which is photographed, but my feelings are more aligned with this project:
The recording of the homeless scene and of homeless people is regarded as "victim" photography by contemporary photography theorists. For the documentary photographer such a criticism, if taken as gospel, prevents the bearing of witness to social conditions, and assists in the elimination of particular pieces of visual social history. A vacuum is thus created into which a new interpretation is possible, based on whatever brand of political ideology is being proposed.

Speaking of photography, I recently rediscovered the work of Sebastiao Salgado. While the photography is moving, I can't help but feel the same impotency and frustration that I feel when I read news articles about distant atrocities. These help raise my awareness about the world, but at the expense of my emotional health.
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Ping
zestyping
2004-10-20 12:42 (UTC)
(no subject)
The Identity Kit is a remarkable and poignant idea.
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fanlain
fanlain
2004-10-20 15:28 (UTC)
(no subject)
...and we had a discussion in one of my photography classes about what is appropriate when photographing homeless people for a documentary series. It was suggested that perhaps you buy them a lunch or dinner in exchange for their photograph; others saw this as exploitation because obviously they would take any money and not a decent rate. I think legally all you need is for them to sign a model release to be ok with being photographed. Just because these people exist does not give the photographer the right to photograph them; children are also a very hot issue. When I took documentary photography, I wanted to document the process of embalming; it also turns out that a photographer is not allowed to photograph this, to protect the deceased since he/she cannot object or give permission. I believe they told me that that was state law. So I ended up getting a ton of model releases and documenting life in a senior home instead.
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fanlain
fanlain
2004-10-20 15:31 (UTC)
(no subject)
I do like the Identity Kit b/c it's a creative way around photographing the homeless and instead brings us much closer to the stark reality of their lives but also makes one think about what we really value in life. If we were to have no home and no where to go, would we value the same things? But also it focuses and emphasizes what these people have (and don't have) to live their own daily lives with. It's somehow more powerful than just taking a photograph of them on a corner, not unlike taking a snapshot of your friends.
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Kris
anemone
2004-10-20 21:43 (UTC)
tourism & photography
I am always surprised when traveling abroad how willing my travelling companions are to photograph people. I don't mean posing with the nice taxi driver, or taking pictures of the real cool building which happens to contain street venders, but photographing aspects of daily life. It always makes me uncomfortable. It turns the people, and their lives, into a sort of tourist attraction, treating them like they are on display in Disneyland.

(You may wonder what this has to do with what you posted. It's that I'd never seen my gut feeling justified before.)
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Gaia
temperategoddss
2004-10-21 12:34 (UTC)
(no subject)
The Identity Kit is a very poignant idea, I have to agree with P-, and an appropriate way to display the meager belongings of the homeless in a very honest way. Very touching.

I could not stop scrolling through the photo essays by Salgado... I know what you mean when you say you get a feeling of impotency and frustration, and are made more aware of the rest of the world, but at the expense of your emotional health. Especially the essay on the people starving in the Sahel, and in particular the picture of the skeleton of a man carrying the bag of bones that until a few hours earlier was his son to the place he promised he'd bring him. What can you do? Or the two skeleton-infants suckling at a woman's breasts hungrily. It's depressing, just the humanity of it, yet you also have to recognize the economic displacement that the people in the Sahel have undergone, combined with drought that would have been tolerable had the migratory patterns and feeding/watering places established for thousands of years by their predecessors not been unavailable or being used for European food production.
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