“Recently, photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that, like every mass art form, photography is not practiced by most people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defense against anxiety, and a tool of power.” (Susan Sontag, On Photography, in 1971)
Photography is part of our daily life. It gives us joy, lets us express our creativity and makes us grow as artists and persons. It captures moments for us and lets us relive them when we would like to experience them again. It captures the love for our families and visualizes our dreams. Photography is magic, accessible to everyone.
Magic needs to be wielded with care and responsibility. Like in Goethe’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” it can go wrong and the magic tool gets out of control. One of the recent examples is the death of the American ambassador in Libya. When his body, most likely already dead, was held up and about to be carried away, bystanders took photographs of him in this vulnerable moment and the New York Times seemed only be too happy to publish them.
In the Netherlands paramedics have problems doing their work, because bystanders interfere with them in order to take pictures with their cell phones from, for example car accident victims. And they even get violent when police or paramedics try to keep them away.
On the other side of the scale the topless photos of the Duchess of Cambridge are silly (who hasn’t seen a pretty young woman topless on a beach) and intrusive to the private life of a person.
And now with all these “sorcerer’s apprentices” around how do we stop this?
Most likely there will be no easy way to stop this. It will take time to create a general consciousness of respect and dignity, a consciousness that something powerful as photography needs the “master” and not the “apprentice” to unfold its entire beauty and strength to serve mankind as a tool of growth. And yet, photography itself is the tool to enable people to develop exactly this consciousness. One got to drive a car in order to learn driving and one got to practice photography in order to become a “master”.
Ute Sonnenberg for www.rohoyachui.com