Storytelling can be an extremely powerful tool if it is used right; however it all depends on how the stories are told to those that are listening, as the way that they come across can change the entire story. As photographers, we are able to choose what we get to report to the viewers, especially if we have a certain intention or motive that we want to get across. This isn’t a new theory as such, as with all projects there is a line of thinking that is made in order for the photographer to make their point.
What we have to bear in mind is the difference between an outsider telling a story, compared to an insider telling a story. This is an important point to make, as the relation that we have to the subject is very critical due to how it can affect our representation of the subject and the stories that we will tell afterwards.
Abigail Solomon-Godeau explores the inside/outside position in photography. She uses Diane Arbus as an example of someone that can be considered as an ‘outside’ photographer due to how she objectifies people and has a lack of empathy within her work. We could consider Arbus’ approach bad due to the distance between her as the photographer and the subject. But then I think Arbus’ work is in the grey area as she did now these people for who they were, she just photographed them in the manner that anyone else would take pictures, hence why some may see her work as alienated. So what is the good side then of the insider? We can logically presume then that as an insider, you would be in a position of partaking, engagement and privileged knowledge.
I think this is extremely relevant for the type of photography I am aiming to be taking; we can’t just go up and take a picture of someone who is homeless because it is dehumanising to them as an individual, but also it is an unfair representation as well. Martha Rosler who authored the essay In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography), viewed outsider photography as a type of ‘victim photography’, something that can be linked with the stereotypical images we see of the homeless on Google. Rather, she suggests self-representation photography as a much better alternative due to the fact that it would empower the subject to represent themselves for how they want to be seen (a bit like Anthony Luvera’s work) and puts everyone on the same playing field.
However, we will still all be guilty of one problem, which is something I noted in the problem I had with Humans of New York, is that just by taking a pictures we are only seeing a partial and distorted view of the subject that is to be represented because we are only going on what we find engaging. This is why I have recorded the conversations I have had with each individual as it moves away from picking out the interesting points, but we can listen to the whole story and how it links in together.
Yes, for my work I will be picking out certain elements to base my images on but not because I am doing it just because it is ‘interesting’, but more so an element of the story being told, a visual aid as you could put it.
Rosler, M. (1981) ‘In, Around and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)’ Rosler 3 Works, Halifax, N.S.: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and DesignSolomon-Godeau, A. (1994) ‘Inside/Out (Public Information: Desire, Disaster, Document, Exhibition)’ Catalog. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. New York: Art Publishers, 49-62