June 26th, 2016 — Three times in the last few months I’ve been confounded by comments about photographs.
The first was during a panel discussion about “The Sinister in Photography” at the Capture Photography Festival. It seemed to be taken for granted by everyone on the panel that any photograph made without the intent of righting a wrong was, maybe not sinister, but certainly suspicious.
The second comment came from a long time documentary photographer based in Vancouver who was apologetic after posting a picture of a homeless person on Granville Street to his Facebook page. This matter would have been of no consequence except that he was offended when I sent him a note saying there was no apology needed.
The third comment came last week from a well known Vancouver art photographer and curator during a discussion at the Vancouver Art Gallery about street photography. He basically said that anyone doing street photography is wasting their time, the best has been done, it’s all repetitive, just a version of necromancy which I looked up and took to mean, “a conjuration of the spirits of the dead for purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events”. Did he mean recording the visual history of a city and its people is of no importance because the genre is artistically stale or is it that there is no history anymore; that history is over?
All this is cause for thought. It’s true that few photographs have changed anything and with the death of newspapers and general circulation magazines it looks likely that pictures taken in the future will have even less power to make an impact. But, what if we tackled a problem in a different way? Instead of ignoring the homeless people on the street, or just being careful of their sensitivities and not photographing them, everyone with a cell phone took a picture of every homeless person they passed every day for a year and immediately posted it to Flickr or a Facebook page called, say, Homeless in Vancouver. That could easily be fifty thousand new pictures a day whizzing around the world on the internet. Would the city take notice? Would the tourist bureau take notice? Would the Chamber of Commerce take notice? It’s certainly a thought.
Note: The picture above was taken at Burrard and Robson Streets in Vancouver.