I have had a photographic encounter with the sacred, I think. A while ago I lugged the 8x10 to a place called Granite Bay near where I live. It is a fantastic rockscape with monoliths, deep shadows, and crevasses; visually powerful and evocative. While I was setting up the camera a passer by admonished me for intruding into a place sacred to the old aboriginal tribes that used to live in the area about 100 years ago. The aborigines have been gone for a long time, no one left to offend, so I completed the photography and moved on.
Later I realized that it may have been the dramatic and slightly eerie ambience of Granite Bay that told the ancient aborigines that it was a sacred place. Sacred places are rarely ordinary looking, or so it seems. The same ambience talking to me, a 21st century photographer, definitely insisted "Photograph Me". Perhaps for modern technological man the response to a spiritually powerful landscape is not to worship but to photograph.
Photography itself may be akin to a sacrament. Consider first the difficult pilgimage, 8x10 on the back, photographer sweating in the sun, agonizing across steep topography to get to the site of power. Then a portable shrine, the 8x10 camera, is set up. Various obeisances and rituals are subsequently performed with a big dark cloth, spot-meter, filters etcetera. The final step is the offering. A large piece of expensive photographic film is ritually "burnt" in the portable shrine in supplication to the power of the subject matter.
The ancient original worshipers are gone from many places in the world, not just most of Australia, but where they survive their priority should be respected. If the spirits of a place survive or accumulate power on the basis that someone pays homage to them then photographers must be preserving a lot of earth-magic. The spirits of Granite Bay seem not to mind photography. They have always treated me benignly and have invited me back many times.
Photography, the word itself, invented and defined by its author Sir John.F.W.Herschel, 14 March 1839 at the Royal Society, Somerset House, London. Quote "...Photography or the application of the Chemical rays of light to the purpose of pictorial representation,..". unquote.
Okay folks, let's start again. I've tried to locate the point at which this thread went south and pretty much mass deleted from there, with the exception of Maris's particularly interesting post.
This time, let's try not to personalize it, but keep it hypothetical and related to your own experiences, as I think the original poster intended. Even if the original post may have been a reaction to a particular image in the gallery, it was phrased carefully enough so that this thread should not be about any particular image in the gallery.
Situations like this (photographing in "sensitive" areas) cause emotions to run high. Individuals always have their own ideas about what is "morally right" and often get quite combative/assertive about expressing them or imposing them on others. Fortunately societies are able to create laws which govern the behaviour of individuals where the rights of others are concerned.
My personal philosophy would be to respect the law first, and try not to let whatever "moral values" I might be burdened with affect other peoples rights.
Where law or title or right of way is not clear, then respect and negotiation are the only productive way to proceed and the two combined usually work wonders.
My opportunity for imposing my moral values on others comes often enough and takes place at the ballot box.
Last edited by John Bartley; 02-24-2006 at 08:48 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: added a (phrase) for clarity
Sure is fun to continue to gang up and pick on the new, passionate and somewhat naive one, eh? Making all you people with nothing constructive to say feel like big, important people?
You're starting to look like nothing more than schoolyard bullies.
Grow up a little.
<Edited by Mr Callow There is some truth in this statement that may be worth reading and then again maybe this is a lost cause>
OK one more time...
Please stay on topic, please respect each other, please give everyone, especially those you don't know the benefit of the doubt.
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Interesting, and thoughtful post.
Originally Posted by Maris
The beautiful places on this earth are here for everyone to enjoy. If I want to express my fascination and wonderment by photographing them, that is my business and no one elses; as long as I do no harm. I will always try to respect the wishes and cultural beliefs of others, but sometimes that is not possible.
Using someone's property in a photograph to make money is another matter entirely.
Beautifull places on Earth are not here for everyone to enjoy, how else do you explain private property of beautifull places on Earth? Or protected parks of nature and you must get licence from authorities of particular country to enter them. Or, even existing of states, and states can reject access some people to reach some beautifull places. For example, I want to see and photograph Colorado river Canyon, and USA government don't give me visas to enter into USA (or any other state for places into those states)
Originally Posted by matt miller
What do you mean with respecting wishes and cultural belifs of others sometimes is not possible?
You want to photograph for some religion sacret place and people who worship that religion find photographing of that place unapropriate. Is it not possibile not to photograph? You just not photograph.
Expressing you fascination of beautifull places by photographing them is your business and nobody elses...
Well, as human body is also material product of nature (or God for religious people) can I express fascination of beautifull nature work, in this case of human body, maybe yours wife or your daughter by photographing them nude, and that is to be only my business and nobody elses? After all body of those women is not product of your work, it is product of natures work, so it is not your business. And I will do no harm, not touch them, just photograph them.
Yes, what I said above is maybe unapropriate, I just wanted to tell that statement "it is my business and no one elses" is unapropriate too.
anyone seriously interested in discussions on this topic would find himself enriched by reading the book I mentioned in one of the first posts of this thread. It let's peoples from within the cultures themselve describe some of the problems they have with photography, or being photographed. Some are photographers, others discover the wealth of information that photos taken, even without the consent of the photographed, provides them with, others would rather see all photos destroyed. Another fun book to read is written by the famous balloonrider and entrepreneur photographer Nadar writes about Balzacs' problems with being photographed. And that's France
But seriously, if someone has a problem with something being photographed, for a sincere reason like religious reasons, then it's a matter of weighing the necessity of your shot against the harm you inflict. Beauty is found in a good many places, especially if you look well (as should every photographer), so going to the next place could be a logical step..
I will admit that my attitude towards this issue has changed a lot over the years (even though I'm young, yes). Traveling in Muslim African countries, and extenstively through China at first I always felt I should take the shot. I mean "what harm would it do". But as I looked more and more at photos (in general), of all kinds of subjecst, the power of the image became clearer to me. And with that (though a bit later) it dawned upon me that with this power the right to a certain degree (determined by your own sense of right and wrong) of the photographed to say yae or nae to being photographed became clear to me..
The Navajo Nation/reservation is like a seperate country overseen by the federal gov. We should respect their laws like any other laws. We should respect their relgious beliefs.
Mark did a marvelous article on photographing on the Navajo reservation. Very good information about it and who to contact. It would be wise for anyone to read this so they can better understand. This is not some ancient land that is no longer populated by those who hold it sacred. It is actively populated with those who find things we do as intrusive and demeaning. Respect them and it will be much easier for you and your photography.
Last edited by mrcallow; 02-24-2006 at 03:46 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: To keep a dead horse out of the thread.
Non Digital Diva