You're right haris "sometimes that is not possible" was a bad choice of words. It is always an option to not make the photograph. What I mean is that there may be circumstances in which I am unaware of the wishes of others. I have, in the past, photographed private property without the owner's consent. I have not knowingly done so against the owner's wishes. I do not ignore "no trespassing" signs, but if the gate is open and there is no one to ask, I will enter and photograph. That's all I'm saying. No harm done. I did not mean to sound so arrogant.
Originally Posted by haris
Much the same sentiment as expressed by Onno, Haris and others: Is photography harmless? Maybe it is in many cultures, but not in others. What is the purpose of taking photographs of sacred places? What is the motive? Does the motive matter? Is the picture so important? There may be no clear-cut, or general, answers to those questions, but they seem worth asking. If you take a picture of a place that is sacred to someone else because you believe that it is your right to do so, would they have the right to act on their belief that it is permissible to hack you to death?
Possession seems important. Deny all access by others. Simple?
The English Heritage project to photograph all their listed building ran into problems because of a prohibition on taking pictures of sacred objects – despite the rule that the pictures must be taken legally from public rights of way. The sacred objects were those that showed the presence of children, and car number plates. This might be rationalised and understood by us in our system of beliefs, but could just as easily be considered as a silly superstition that does not need to be respected.
I wish that I could remember who wrote that the aim in documentary photography should be to do no unintentional harm.
‘Sacred’ and ‘magic’ are not the same thing. There are plenty of truly magic places that nobody will mind you taking pictures of, and that will survive or avoid commodification. The pictures of Tom (Thomas Joshua) Cooper come to mind, among others. There’s more magic in revelations than in the dramatic. At a more obvious level, Charles Jenks’ design for Northumberlandia strikes me as a remarkable way of realising some non-Christian sprit by wrapping it carefully in spectacle, asking to be photographed and assimilated into the prevailing culture. One spiritual culture visits another with the intention of coexisting. (My original reference to Northumberlandia got lost in the mass deletions)
I'm curious did the Navajo ( I thought they preferred to be called Dinay) own Monument Valley when John Ford shot all those westerns there that made the "Indians" look like savages?
The term sacred must have a lot to do with what the original inhabitants thought of the place, obviously.
Except in the case of graveyards or burial places, one would suppose that any extraordinary place that we find today would have been considered the same in ancient times by someone.
Your source of food, your source of water, your source or inspiration, strange mountains, places that reflect light etc would have been sacred to some peoples. So it isn't a stretch to think that any incredible beautiful place would be considered sacred to the original inhabitants.
In fact virtually all sacred places are things of beauty, even man made ones. Because since they are sacred, the people beautify them.
So the dilemma is how do we photograph places that are considered sacred to someone. I guess, with respect.
I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.
This is a study conducted by a few academics in Visual Communcations in the 70's at Navajo. It might not be what you're looking for, but take a look if you're interested.
Originally Posted by Early Riser
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Yes they owned it meaning it was within the boundries of the Navajo Reservation, and meaning Navajos lived near it on Black mesa and wintered in it. Yes tribal members were dressed up right along side the painted white guys. Often cussing them out in their native tongue. As to what to call them it depends on the person. I have heard more anglos use the term Dine` than Navajos. That is changing though, one of the strange things to watch. A person will give a speech and use the word Dine` throughout the presentation but as soon as it is time to do some question and answer they switch back to the term Navajo. Old habits die hard..
The success of those movies, the subsequent influx of tourists dollars and folks with not so good intentions is what has made things the way they are today. It is a very expensive place to shoot these days. There are also a lot of requirements that production companies have to follow. The tribe sees no difference between a print advertisement being shot and fine art photography. Both seek to make money off images made on Navajo land, so they are held to the same expectations.
I think Blansky is correct. Wherever we shoot, shoot with respect. But I would add that when in doubt ask a local.
I have never seen aggie sugar coat anything, so i don't expect her too, but the info in her post is correct for any photography you intend to sell. Things may have changed for Personal Display Photography but I have not specifically checked on that in a few months since I do not participate in this field of photography.
Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI
So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004
My point is that if these are such sacred places to the Dine, then how come it's been ok for them to rent them to movie companies who then produce movies on their sacred land that make them look like mindless blood thirsty savages? Either their land is truly sacred or not. But to rent that land for purposes that hurt their people in the long run and promote an unhealthy stereotype of them seems to suggest their values are for sale.
I have hired Dine guides in monument valley, and they were more than willing to let me crawl all over the place with gear. I could be wrong but I don't think there would be too much of a problem requesting that the guide allow someone, who might have made a presentation to them showing the type of tasteful work they do, to shoot a nude.
So the issue seems to be essentially private property rights which the owners have every right to dictate terms. Considering the abomination of a ruling the US Supreme court handed down on eminent domain, those rights are ever more in danger and you would think we should elevate ourselves over the judges in our own court system in showing respect for private property.
What puzzles me is why not work in areas that are public land? Is the topography of the Navajo reservation that unique? Or is it just the mystic of photographing naked bodies in a sacred tribal location?
Time & tides wait for no one, especially photographers.
In most cases no. There are millions of acres of blm, federal and state lands here that cost nothing to shoot on with some amazing landscapes.
Originally Posted by RAP
art is about managing compromise
Sometimes it's good to look at things in an historical context. It was the early 30's when John Ford (from your earlier example) was there and a lot has changed since then, even in our own society. I don't know the history of the Navajo, but 75% of the Native people on BC's coast died of Euopean diseases after contact, and it's taken them a while to get their cultural legs under themselves again. Choices made while only 3 or 4 generations after the shattering impact of European contact probably wouldn't be made today.
Originally Posted by Early Riser
Note to self: Turn your negatives into positives.