gradientlair

There Is No “Neutral Gaze” In Photography

gradientlair:

(I originally posted this on my photography blog Drift Sojourn.)

One of the troubling ideas that I see among photographers is that somehow when they are engaged in street photography, they have a “neutral gaze” where they simply “observe” and do not impact the surroundings. This myth is borrowed from colonialist mentality where the White Gaze is deemed a “neutral” one that can “observe” cultures through consumption, appropriation and exploitation, but that Gaze has no impact since they are not a part of the culture in question and thereby are “objective.” Such an “objectivity” rests on the illogical notion that one is “rational” if one is less informed and less experienced with the culture one gazes at. (It also rests upon a false notion that emotions and logic are completely divergent and raced/gendered.) It blatantly ignores the structural power that Whiteness affords. (In fact, see this great thread of people speaking on the colonialist gaze and Steve McCurry’s photograph of “Afghan Girl.”) 

There is no neutral gaze. Our identities, privileges/oppressions, appearances and behaviors as photographers affect our experiences as photographers and as subjects. It affects how we interact with subjects and how subjects interact with us, period.

I’ve been out doing street photography and caught the eye of a White male photographer doing the same. We of course exchange the knowing photographer slight grin and keep moving. But let him walk by a group of men and ask to photograph them. The level of respect given to him and enthusiasm those men have is much different from those same men street harassing me if I don’t ask to photograph them or them assuming I have some sort of sexual interest in them if I do ask to photograph them.

There is no neutral gaze because there are no neutral identities. The idea that there is a neutral one rests upon White supremacy and how that creates the idea that White is “normal,” because of racism non-White is “not normal” and because of anti-Blackness Black is “not human.” And these particular politics cannot be ignored no matter how much complacency and ignorance some photographers have about people…yet they want to photograph people. 

The fact that primarily cishet White male photographers give street photography “advice” to photographers yet never address how Black male photographers could experience police harassment or how women photographers, especially Black women, could experience street harassment, remains a problem. But let a cop harass a White male photographer, a man who would NEVER be harassed otherwise, and that’s the central focus of photography and harassment while doing street photography. Right.

There is no neutral gaze. There are no neutral experiences. There is no neutral identity. 

Related Posts: 8 Good Reads On Black Women and Photography, As Photographers and/or Subjects, The Clients Who Didn’t Want A Black Woman As Their PhotographerNot All Street Photographers Are Treated The Same, Respect Subjects of Photojournalism and Street Photography, White Privilege and The Photography Industry

colinodonorgasm
cynmoon:

Okay can we take a second to talk about this scene? I mean once we stop blushing furiously and fanning ourselves.
Can you imagine that day on set? The director had to have the camera crew get the shot from UNDER the table. How do you think that conversation went? “Okay guys, today we’re doing crotch shots. …what? Yes, we’re definitely still airing on ABC. Come on guys, it’ll be fun!”
Then there’s the idea of MULTIPLE. TAKES.
"Jen? That shot was great. But next time try sliding your hand higher. Maybe linger on his thigh a little more. No, we haven’t moved to HBO. Why do you guys keep asking me that? What? I KNOW PORN IS NOT IN YOUR CONTRACT. THIS IS NOT PORN, OKAY? THIS IS OBVIOUSLY ISN’T PORN. THIS IS A FAMILY SHOW. Geez. Now can we please get back to you gently caressing his thigh?”

cynmoon:

Okay can we take a second to talk about this scene? I mean once we stop blushing furiously and fanning ourselves.

Can you imagine that day on set? The director had to have the camera crew get the shot from UNDER the table. How do you think that conversation went? “Okay guys, today we’re doing crotch shots. …what? Yes, we’re definitely still airing on ABC. Come on guys, it’ll be fun!”

Then there’s the idea of MULTIPLE. TAKES.

"Jen? That shot was great. But next time try sliding your hand higher. Maybe linger on his thigh a little more. No, we haven’t moved to HBO. Why do you guys keep asking me that? What? I KNOW PORN IS NOT IN YOUR CONTRACT. THIS IS NOT PORN, OKAY? THIS IS OBVIOUSLY ISN’T PORN. THIS IS A FAMILY SHOW. Geez. Now can we please get back to you gently caressing his thigh?”

maskedlinguist

maskedlinguist:

patrickat:

ariaste:

unamusedsloth:

Exercise caution, especially with things labeled “fresh” pizza

I dunno, I’m most worried about “stairs”

There’s a deli around here that advertises “hot” corned beef and I suppose that’s better than hot “corned beef”.

This is one of those things where by flouting convention you end up making the exact opposite point you were trying to. Descriptive Grammar still requires that your meaning get conveyed properly.

gradientlair

gradientlair:

imsirius:

The way I dress is really about the message I want to send out to the world about who I am. Growing up in Alabama, I was black. I was poor. I was assigned male at birth — that’s how I like to put it. These things defined me, but I’m not any of these things. Clothes were a way for me to announce to the world who I was. I am not any of these things. This is who I am." - Laverne Cox

She is glorious. Beautiful. Love what she had to say about beauty politics here.