These days, we talk a lot about the slippery nature of truth. Even Facebook has started revealing sources of articles posted on its news feed. During my days as a student in photojournalism, ideals like truth and objectivity were drilled down every day. Yet I was never satisfied with the J-School definition of truth. In recent years, social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have forced consumers of mainstream media to recognize that truth has everything to do with who is telling the story, as well as the intended audience.
Recently I have been reading about German photographer August Sander and his connection to the artists of the New Objectivity movement that took place during the Weimar Republic era (1919-1933). A couple of his quotes stuck in my mind:
- So allow me to be honest and tell the truth about our age and its people.
- A portrait is your mirror. It's you.
Quotes can be deceiving– we don't know the circumstances under which they were uttered. I'm going out on a limb anyway to reflect on the paradoxical nature of these two statements, and how they apply to my photography practice.
For me, a portrait is a balancing act between my perception of the subject, my own experiences and prejudices, and the subject his/herself. It's like a dance with me playing the role of the lead. Sitters may or may not agree to follow my direction with the picture, they may have suggestions of their own. I am aware of my power as a photographer and consider time with my subjects as a gift. Above all, I hope my portraits reflect back humanity and dignity, as Sander's do.