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Sunday, October 23, 2011

When not to take a photograph.

He is called "Little Cat" but really is quite large.Chases off dogs that walk past our house but loves everyone else.Has never objected to my photographing him.

As a snap happy digital age photographer with many cameras I have often been accused of  taking too many photographs.
Those accusations are probably merited on occasions but is interesting how people are later interested at some stage to see such photographs.

I believe however  there are some occasions we shouldn’t click the shutter or even have a camera with us.

I have been annoyed at times when visiting the Opera for instance, that I cannot capture the magnificent sets and lighting effects that are on display and the costumery.
But one should abide by house rules.

When I see a situation out in public that would make a great human interest shot I hold back as I am invading someones privacy. I have taken shots in the past but that is not my practice now.
Of course you can approach the person and get permission which I have done on occasions.

I was at a Country Music Festival in the Riverland of South Australia on one occasion and there was a little dog sitting on some rustic steps on a flood bank.
I was lining him up for a cute shot of the dog when a little boy came and plonked himself in the middle of my picture cradling his chin in his hands and just gazed appealingly at the camera.
Of course I took the shot.
This was in pre digital days.
I sought out the child’s grandma who was nearby and advised “I think I got a great photo of your little grandson would you like my details and I’ll send you a copy.”
She agreed and it turned out the Grandma was a former school friend of my wife.
I ended up being invited to do a family shoot of 2 sets of twin boys in that family, the original lad being one of them.

At weddings I am ever on the alert for appealing candid shots, using my peripheral vision, ie. being aware of what is happening off to the side of my main focus at the time.
This is fair enough and acceptable on a wedding shoot but you do have to be careful.
On one occasion the reception for a wedding was in a local hotel with lots of poker machines.
I took an appealing shot of one of the Bridesmaids playing the pokies.
A couple of days after that wedding the Bridesmaid rang me and said please don’t include that shot in the wedding album as my Mother will be very angry.
There was a strong aversion to gambling in that family, possibly from a religious perspective.
I abided by her wish.

I have also on occasion withdrawn some shots taken when requested by the Bride because of some family relationship difficulties.

On a wedding shoot once the Groom and then the Bride and then the whole wedding party started sobbing during the exchange of vows.
Visiually and emotionally it made for a great sequence of shots but I did not do it as I was not sure of why this was happening.
They never knew I didn’t take the shots or that I had thought about it.
Maybe I was being sensitive but somehow my inner voice was saying no.

I think sometimes you have to listen to that voice.

I had an unusual request one day from a phone call from my wife who works as a Nurse in a Doctor’s surgery.

She said do you have a camera ready at home with any film in it?

The reason was an elderly patient had been in the surgery very upset as she had to go and have her pet cat put down.
My wife volunteered to drive her to the vet.
The lady was most upset as she also had no photographs ever of her beloved cat.
My wife was at the vet’s  when  she rang.
The cat was dead but the Old lady was cradling the cat in a basket and it just looked like the cat was sleeping.
My wife wanted me to come a take a photo so I took the polaroid shot  with the lady cradling the cat. It did a lot to help with her letting go and easing her distress.
To me that was an assignment that someone else may have said no to, but it goes down as probably the most illustrative and poignant  example of my Photographic Philosophy which is always striving to use my camera for God.

I think it was probably the best I ever felt while taking a photograph.

I have taken family photos at funerals when requested to as like weddings it is one of the few occasions when the whole family comes together.

I have taken a photo of my cousin’s infant daughter at her Grandmas’ grave side and with her Mum,which is to me the most touching photo I have ever taken.
I have chosen to keep that firmly within the family archives even though it is the sort of photo that people would enter in competitions.

There are many occasions for various reasons one should hold back in people photography.

The ones who wrestle with these questions all the time are the Photographers who go into war zones and civil war situations.

I watched the movie “The Bang Bang Club” about 4 such photographers this week.
One of then,Kevin Carter, became a pullitzer prize winner for his photography but ended up taking his own life.
If you find the blog and also archived Digital Journalist website there are many excellent photo essays that discuss this type of photography.
Dirck Halstead is the founder of the Digital Journalist.

Also I would never take pornographic or voyeuristic type photos as there is a trail of shattered lives left by such practices.
See my blog entry “Using your Camera for God” where I comment on this.

So in summary there are times when you just don’t click the shutter.

I haven’t mentioned wildlife photography.

You would not want to jeopardise the lives of any species by your actions.

It really comes down to your values and your maturity and willingness to treat others as you would like to be treated.

I met a retired couple once at a very photogenic spot near Broken Hill in outback New South Wales.

They had travelled the world to some of the world’s most beautiful places but they never took a camera with them.

They were content to remember things as their minds recorded them.

There is something about that philosophy that appeals to me even though I am a passionate photographer.

Happy Snapping or Not Snapping.

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