Thursday, June 09, 2005


Ling Ming and "Mom" - Lanyu

Arianna and I were recently discussing the issue of exploitation in photography. I've heard it most mentioned in regards to photographing the homeless; wherein the photographer is "taking advantage" of the subject's misfortune. Another issue is war. Photographers like James Nachtwey "profit" from images of suffering, though I hope the photographer's personal intent is to document in such a way so as to bring public outcry against injustice.

Are we exploiting the aborigines we have encountered this year, I wondered? Compared to the fascinating beauty we have seen, breathed, and captured on film, I feel I have offered little in return, particularly this weekend. At Outai, a mountain village, we return repeatedly, and have had the chance to earn the trust of the people, and they openly share their lives with us. At Lanyu, I wanted to marvel and make some great pictures, but oftentimes didn't feel welcome to do so. Though I have no malicious intent, I refrained from many pictures for fear of offending the Yami people.


Fish Snack - Lanyu

Obviously the top picture is taken with express permission and understanding. The second is a candid, my favorite style of photography, capturing someone in the moment of life. Is it ethically permissible? In an ideal situation I would make a copy and give this image to the woman, she would laugh and smile, and everything would be hunky dory. But I'll never be there again, so I'll never know what she really thinks.

I do approach candid shots with soft feet, trying to sense who would not be okay with a picture, and who would not. This woman was sitting with ten other people in a wind house, eating fist and singing songs. I felt she alone out of the group would be comfortable having her picture taken - I didn't dare point the camera at any of the others, though the image might have been spectacular with absolutely perfect light and color. But it was not worth the risk of offense.


Puppet - Lanyu

So I was left with only two shots of actual people, wondering how else to document these fascinating people in an acceptable way. Our host is a pupeteer, and framing one of his Yami puppets with a flying fish seemed an appropriate alternative!

4 Comments:

Blogger Myself said...

Ling Ming and "Mom" Canon EOS 20D
6/7/2005 11:17:04 AM
Aperture-Priority AE
Tv( Shutter Speed )1/80
Av( Aperture Value )5.0
Evaluative Metering
Exposure Compensation 0
ISO Speed 800
Lens 80.0 - 210.0 mm
Focal Length 80.0 mm

Fish Snack - Canon EOS 20D
6/7/2005 10:58:23 AM
Aperture-Priority AE
Tv( Shutter Speed )1/200
Av( Aperture Value )5.6
Evaluative Metering
Exposure Compensation 0
ISO Speed 200
Lens 80.0 - 210.0 mm
Focal Length 152.0 mm

Puppet Canon EOS 20D
6/7/2005 10:15:43 AM
Aperture-Priority AE
Tv( Shutter Speed )1/1000
Av( Aperture Value )5.6
Evaluative Metering
Exposure Compensation 0
ISO Speed 200
Lens 80.0 - 210.0 mm
Focal Length 132.0 mm

The first two were copied as layers, set gaussian blur to 10, overlay to around 50%, and USM on the bottom layer.

9.6.05  
Blogger Abhi said...

Great post and wonderful images. I know exactly how you feel and the dilemma you were facing. Overall, I think you made the right choices. Certainly, offending these wonderful hosts is the last thing you want to do. But I'm glad you were able to capture some aspect of their daily life, as it helps your visitors see and learn about a part of the world and about a group of people that they otherwise never might.

9.6.05  
Blogger RainKing said...

Very nice stuff. Totally National Geographic.

10.6.05  
Blogger jane said...

Abhi said what I was thinking so well. Great work.

10.6.05  

Post a Comment

<< Home