6 Photographers… 1 Man… 6 Perspectives.
For Your Consideration:
“To be is to be perceived.” –Bishop George Berkeley, Philosopher (1685 – 1753)
“I’ve always believed that photography is a way to shape human perception.” –James Balog, Photographer (1952 – present)
“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” –Emily Dickinson, Poet (1830-1886)
“I really believe there are things people wouldn’t see if I didn’t photograph them.” –Diane Arbus, Photographer (1923 – 1971)
“A photograph is shaped more by the person behind the camera than by what’s in front of it,” affirms Canon Australia (aka The Lab) in this very clever and slightly disquieting video. “To prove this we invited six photographers to a portrait session with a twist.”
That portrait session was called “Decoy,” which Canon Australia explains as “one of six experiments from The Lab, designed to shift creative thinking behind the lens.” The six participating photographers were Chris Meredith, Jin Lim, Lyndal Irons, Kate Disher-Quill, Franky Tsang & Tristan Stefan Edouard. Each of them showed up at The Lab to meet and shoot portraits of ‘Michael,’ in a photo session designed to “flesh out the essence of who he is.”
A criminal who’s done time…
A self-made millionaire…
A hero who has saved somebody’s life…
A self-professed psychic…
A former alcoholic…
…but, in reality, none of these things. ‘Michael’ was an actor.
What’s important, though, is that each of the six shooters participating in the project had a different understanding of who he was, which profoundly colored the way in which they represented him. When the six photographers were brought together and examined each other’s portraits, they discovered that each of them had captured, essentially, a different guy. Each one had projected his or her own sense of who Michael was into their photography.
Intrigued? Here, have a look at the video.
The video…For Your (Ongoing) Consideration
Are you hearing this? Has it dawned on you how much power you have, as a photographer, to shape the way your subject is represented in your images…to shape the perceptions of those who will be experiencing those images?
There is a kind of power inherent in photography that is not present in the other representative arts. When a painter projects his interpretation of a scene upon the canvas, the audience for that painting can always say, “Well, yeah, of course—this is fictional. The artist may have based the painting on a real scene, but this is his own subjective take on it. That’s why it’s called ART.” However, when YOU shoot a scene, and your understanding of what’s going on is projected onto the images you’re shooting, it’s a lot harder for the public to say, “Well sure, he just made it up.” No, you didn’t: it’s a photograph. Everybody knows that a photograph is a faithful representation of something real. (We’re pretending for the moment that Photoshop only exists in an alternate timeline.) What you create, as a photographer, is an objective capture of the scene.
The art that you create, made up of various parts journalistic representation, subjective interpretation, and strong storytelling, is a unique sort of bird. Take some time to think about that the next time you’re shooting a portrait session, a street fair, or a wedding.
The good people at Canon Australia turn out to be tricksy hobbitses–and we love ’em for it!–but they have effectively called attention to a potent truth about photography and photographers.
We feel that it’s only fitting to end this discussion with another quote from Diane Arbus:
“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do.”
Gosh, it’s really kind of hard to disagree, isn’t it?