To See and Be Seen

December 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

“I guess I told you about myself to a degree, just by telling you about people like me”

— K’naan

My experience is that often times photographers and filmmakers have experienced some form of painful loss or abandonment in life. The art form necessitates connection with the world and can link someone back to the living world in a concrete way. Many photographers, because they have never felt truly part of life, instead become powerful witnesses to it. They become what Peter Gzowski called “a bridge of love for light to pass.” Never fully invested in the conflicts they cover, they can practice objectivity, and become a strong bridge of love rather than the arbritors of right and wrong.

In many ways to be looked at is to be loved. To be seen is to be loved; while seeing the other, we attempt to know him or her. To know is to love.  The documentarian seeks to communicate that a life is worthy of something important and permanent;  she seeks to produce a work of art that has a meaning in time.

Photography and film, I believe, begin at the moment when an artist wishes to break the alienation she feels from life; through filming life she becomes a part of it;  by photographing life, he enters into it.  A camera is an outstretched hand, “grab onto me,” it says, not knowing who needs the other more; does the filmmaker need the subject or does the subject need the filmmaker?

Photography can be the most distilled act of love possible, that which says: I see you, unveiled, without your armour.


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