Photography and Intent


This could be an article about a lot of things, immigration, remembering, protest, or intersectionality but the thought I keep coming back to photography and intent. What's the focus and the intent of the work? After looking at the exhibit it was clear to me that if you don't clearly see the subject your images will miss them too. That intangible thing that makes you twist your mouth up. Technical beauty isn't always enough, images that witness and speak to what was real last for generations.  This is a key distinction between the images  Ansel Adams took of beautiful landscapes and the American story Dorthea Lange was able to capture. Ansel Adams is undoubtedly a great landscape photographer and his images of the Japanese Internment Camps show that; they also make it clear that his heart wasn't with the people so their story want one he could capture.  Maybe there is a wrong side of photographic history even when your images are beautiful

I attended a black photographers meetup two days before seeing this exhibit and the conversation turned to where the lines should be regarded who is photographed by whom and how intent/proximity effects the shots. Until this exhibit, I thought it would be near impossible for a photographer to authentically capture the lived experience of a community so far removed from their own. I stand corrected thanks to Lange.  Don't be quick to assume that "skin folk are kinfolk" or that small amounts of personal privilege can't be held responsibly. 

By biggest takeaway for my own practice: by clear about why and what your capturing.



Be Like the Cactus

Let not harsh tongues, that wag
in vain,
Discourage you. In spite of
Be like the cactus, which through
And storm, and thunder, can

by Kimii Nagata





Check out the oral history studio to hear the stories of Japanese Americans. This is a spectacular resource for educators.