The Global Image: My Perspective

I wrote the first post after watching and reading the module presentations from notes I made, but before I had read the Talis Reading list material.  Having now finished those I find my initial notions largely reinforced and am drawn to the conclusion that it is highly unlikely there is such a thing as a true “Global Image.”  While some photographs may have broader and therefore more global appeal than others is undeniable, but to paraphrase P.T. Barnum;  you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the time.

I have the luxury in some regards of having 64 + years of life experience, and while as 20 ungraduated student I found it difficult to form and articulate my own opinions, I find no such difficulty now.  My diverse experiences as a scientist and biologist by education, a career Naval Officer and Naval Aviator by opportunity, an Aerospace Engineer and Program Manager almost by accident, a management consultant by choice, a world ranked internationally competitive amateur golfer by determination and love of the game, and lifelong passionate photographer by avocation have taught me many lessons.

Among the most important of those lessons is that there are very few absolutes in this world, and that the proper answer to nearly every question (certainly those questions of any weight) is “it depends.”  What does this have to do with “The Global Image” and my photography practice?  It seems to me while a photographer may have had an intention in capturing an image, it is quite possible those intentions may be missed in part or entirely by the consumers of the image and people in the middle of the consumption chain can entirely distort the original intention simply by where and how the image is published and around what it is portrayed. Once images leave our hands, we as photographers have little control over how they will viewed.  And so, it seems that the idea of a global image “depends” not only on the subject and the way in which it was captured, but in who is looking at it and where it is being viewed.  So as not to put too fine a point on it I offer an example in the extreme.  A photo of the internees of the Nazi Death Camps would be viewed as evidence of a horrific injustice and time in history by most people who possess even a modest amount of humanity.  However, put that identical photo on the wall of a White Nationalist meeting house and it likely is celebrated and viewed as evidence of a great period of dominance to which they would like to return.  Thus we find ourselves at the precipice of the proverbial slippery slope when we try to make objective judgements on a topic that is largely subjective.  Beauty or ugliness is ultimately inn the eye of the beholder.

What does this do to inform my own practice?  It is of course early days and I reserve the right to change my opinion as time goes on and I continue to learn more about myself and my craft as a photographer.  Nevertheless, I believe it will require that I approach my practice as I have come to approach the other aspects of my life.  I intend to pursue my practice, as much as possible, with kindness, consideration, compassion, and honesty about and for my subjects and my surroundings, and perhaps most importantly, that the results of my work please me technically and aesthetically.  If I am able to achieve these things I will consider my work a success, and if it happens that others derive some pleasure or useful information from my work it will be a bonus.

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