Image Capture

My friend Tyler has a post over at Image Journal’s Good Letters blog, in which he talks about bringing his camera into Robben Island prison in South Africa. His reflections are wise, and worth reading:

And I wonder what is really going on when we point a camera at a home that is not ours, or a church, or a gravesite. I wonder what it means to photograph a foreigner, hang pictures of their children in our coffee shops, to snap unthinkingly at the farmer in the farmer’s market, or shoot the old couple in the park.

None of us believe the folk wisdom that a camera steals the soul of its subject. But I wonder if image capture takes something or someone captive all the same.

. . . 

If the camera with its ability to rend a scene from a complex world is able to similarly exclude poverty and ignore pain, both personal and community-wide, if it can create false realities, if it can alienate, debase, or stereotype the other, then I pray we use it with conscious care and intent, so that our army of lenses brings healing and not further bondage.

It’s worth a read, especially in this age where everyone has a camera readily available in their smartphones. How often do we think about the ethics of taking pictures—and how do we navigate that?


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