" I just have a gut rejection of photographers making money off other people's misery or perceived misery " Hawley
Postmodernism and the Popular Culture hasn't corrupted everybody.
“In most cases, if I didn’t tell their story, nobody would.” Mary Ellen Mark
You should check her out, Alex. You'll find that she is impeccable.
"One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid,
and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision"
I'm bothered by your use of the term "exploited".
Originally Posted by Alex Hawley
Maybe these are just two weary folk waiting to get into the Burning Man Festival?
Thanks for posting the image. When I was thinking about future images I thought about Mark. Glad you picked her.
In this image its the eyes. The eyes of the girl frighten me a little. I don't know if I want to know the experiences behind those eyes. They look far older then the real age of the girl. The boy(?) perhaps for a moment pretending to be someone else, wishing to be someone else.
I always go back and forth on the issue of exploitation with this type of photography. I remeber seeing Diane Arbus' images of institutionalized retarded adults for the first time 20 years ago and being sort of shocked.
Now when I look at them I see a certain innocence and diginity in the people photographed. They seem today to be very caring images.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
It does evoke emotion. At first glance I felt pity, they look so tired and vacant and the mask doesn't seem to belong. They aren't enjoying it. The boy's eyes seem to have some anger in them. They make me think of all the children who have no choice in the way they must live their lives. What would they choose if they could?
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She is one of the great Social conscience photographers. I still see her pictures today in the streets, as the underbelly shows its self in the color of today.
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I like the first one as it shows how life is for a lot of people. We seldom see these people except on occasion and we tend to look away.
She did portraits also, like this old gentleman with a camera!
Sorry for the double copy of the first. Here work is very very impressive.
It is really wonderful to read the impressions of this Mark photograph and photography. Work like the thread photo function on so many levels that analysis is an examination of your own soul.
A great picture, evidence of MEM's ability to depict people at the bottom of the social heap with dignity and empathy. Sadly, also an example of the kind of "committed" photography for which it is becoming ever harder to find an outlet.The question of MEM's motivation is valid, I for one have absolutely no reason to doubt her sincerity. The comparison with Avedon's social documentary work is interesting. I think RA was motivated by egotism and a desire to show that he was "serious" - his pictures in particular taken in state mental institutions are a perfect example of total failure to engage with the subject matter.
PS: Yet another good choice of material for discussion!
Looks like two kids living on Pork 'n Beans and worn–out lies. What wouldn't they do for chocolate milk and cigarettes? I hope they never got near Hollywood, California.
"A certain amount of contempt for the material employed to express an idea is indispensable to the purest realization of this idea." Man Ray
This is one of the great, and disturbing, things that only a photograph can do. If you saw these two kids on the street you could, and probably would, glance away without looking too deeply in their eyes. But the photograph makes it okay to take a closer look and what I see in those eyes bugs me a lot - kids who have seen and experienced things that youngsters that age should not have had to deal with. A painter could show us that, but we wouldn't know how much of it was "impressionistic." A video could present their story, but with so many elements going on at once (movement, sound, color, a word from our sponsor) it would be easy to miss the details. Someone could tell us about these kids and we would shake our heads and "tsk, tsk," but it would be on a relatively superficial level. A photograph captured the moment and the look and holds it still for us to really ponder if we dare to look.
And all the talk of "exploitation" and such seems to #1 always come from those who's primary work is in landscape or other inanimate subjects (not a denigration of the work, the photographers or the subject matter). #2 It's good to learn the background of photographers rather than make assumptions. Mary Ellen Mark cares about her subjects deeply, and in many cases remains in contact with them - not to further exploit but to track the progress of her friends. Diane Arbus went to the institutions for the mentally challenged to force us to acknowledge the existence of a population that up until that point was kept hidden from the sight of "polite" company (much as she did in her other photographic subjects). In her journals she wrote about the people she was photographing at these institutions, referring to them by name and personalities and talking about the enjoyment she got in their company. And they enjoyed the attention they were receiving from someone on the "outside," so who was exploiting whom?
I'm reminded of the old saw, "Your feelings don't tell you about anyone but yourself." So if someone feels this sort of work is exploitive, perhaps they can best be served by that feeling by focusing inward. For myself, if I could give the world just a few photos of this nature then none of my playing around with silver and chemicals would have been an empty, self indulgent exercise.
Thanks for posting this photo,
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"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive" - Howard Thurman