What follows is an explanation of my thoughts regarding a failed photo story mentioned in THIS POST. It is reasoning for my disinclination to shoot certain photo stories purely for the goal of achieving a good grade. Feel free to share thoughts in the comments.
I hate the idea of doing photo stories for school on the homeless, the disabled, the diseased, the impoverished, or any other individual whom is representative of those who are disenfranchised. Unfortunately, these are the kinds of topics and subjects professors and the administration at Metro State have decided to steer students towards. I do not like these stories because they exploit the subject. While no tangible benefit comes from a professional photo story on a disenfranchised or downtrodden individual, the hope is that professional mass-distribution of the story will cause people to take a greater interest in causes designed to remedy that which the story exposes. Shooting a photo story such as this for a class is purely self-indulgent. I am using the addictingly unfamiliar and shocking images of those in need simply to get good grades while the individuals in my photographs have reaped no benefits from the images and never will. How do I explain that to my subjects? Moreover, how do I justify that to myself? It's not incredibly easy to sleep in my plush, oversized bed knowing that the people I just used for a good grade are huddled in the stairwell of a parking garage at 16th and California St. in downtown Denver (true story). How can I tell someone that I want to photograph them searching for their first dry shelter of the month just so I can get a good grade in one college course that costs more money than they will have for the rest of their life? This is still ignoring the fact that I arrived on the location in a few-thousand dollar Jeep, wearing clean clothes, and toting a camera bag full of thousands of dollars of equipment. It feels more like an exploitation of those in need for the benefit of my GPA than a civic service to benefit society. I'm not insinuating that the homeless or the disadvantaged shouldn't be photographed - they definitely should. But I do believe that photographers sure as hell better ensure that their images are designed to do good rather than simply reflect positively upon themselves, and I can't necessarily fulfill this when I am photographing for a grade alone.
Although I am upset that I wasn't able to see my original project to fruition, I am relieved that I don't have to submit a project that is based on a premiss with which I do not wholeheartedly agree. In regards to the significance of my subjects having a "unique" story, that is another thing that I find offensive. We are told to discover those with a "unique story". Everyone on this planet has an experience unique from everyone else who has lived, is living, or will live in the future. By trying to seek out disadvantaged people with "unique" stories, we are objectifying those whom we supposedly wish to uplift. Who was it that decided that homeless people are all the same, and only a few outstanding characters have stories interesting enough to showcase? Every homeless person had to become homeless - how the hell did that happen? What is their story? If they never had to become homeless, they must've been born homeless. That sounds like quite the story, itself. Every single person has a story to tell and to seek out those within a group who possess a "unique" story assumes that they are outliers of a homogenized population. My desire to generalize and objectify the homeless is about as great as my desire to exploit them for a good grade.
It was a careful consideration of these thoughts that led me to pursue a photo story on cycling rather then a second photo story on a homeless individual.
|Patches the Dog watches as I photograph William and Carla.|
|The third-floow landing of a parking garage stairwell is chosen as William and Carla's home for the night.|
|One last reassuring look is shared before William lays down.|