Portfolio Naples March 2017 - Page 39

You are connected to your subjects. Does that make photographing them more difficult? My native region became my photographic pathway to explore what and where we all come from, our human diversity and how we are all connected. roughout my teenage years the media and news from the mid-60’s through the 1970’s had exploited our cultures needs. Locals grew tired of the stereotyping about some of our people’s poverty. To return home, sketching and making pic- tures was how I grew up, always sharing and asking my friends permissions before publishing or exhibiting their pictures. My work has always been per- sonal and indifferent to the media’s coverage. I had to leave the area to work. Returning to continue photographing, giving out pictures to everyone pho- tographed and later distributing my books when published. From year to year I still return and photograph many of the same families, each time finding someone new and evolving deeper in relationships and un- derstandings with old friends. Difficulty comes when hearing stories of family and community disputes, corruptions, abuse and manipulations. e poor often get taken advantage of and they have few defenses. I ask people to tell me their stories and experiences and at the end of their narrative, stories both positive and negative, we make photographs. I feel shar- ing influences the photos, creating more intimacy. A part of their situations and experiences are hopefully expressed and transferred subliminally and un- consciously to the viewer. at to me is powerful and purposeful. Often, the factual story cannot be told or published, as this could cause harm to the person living in the community. My subjects and I, we have to both stand satisfied with what is shown and placed in any of my books or articles, before publica- tion. e viewer can see another’s physical circumstances and vulnerability and that mirrors and opens ones on perspectives and life experiences, if they choose to look long enough. Pictures reveal not only others to us, but how those others are regarded and treated. For me portrait photography is a study of all our be- haviors and actions struggling together. How we each live our lives determines and effects how our neighbors live to some extent. Often, the wealthy back home isolate themselves, and the poor multiply and separate their selves as well, while our government regulates support. In trusting relationships, photographing any specific group over time, pictures mirror back how one looks, how the world and one’s own people see and regard each other without always needing a narrative. In our region the media often blamed poverty, not seeing the strength in the people who endure. Today we go to town with no visible needs showing but we often don’t look to see each other, because many are presently ashamed of our common background. Holler people tell me they love their privacy, it is peaceful in our hills, self- satisfying and our country embraces a feeling of freedom that many do not know. When required to be in town for example: A local mother describes her court appearance when a social worker ordered her family be taken to court because of alleged child neglect. “When we went in front of the judge, the judge acted like we wanton' there, like we wanton’ even in the court room. Wouldn’t look at us. e social worker told us, the judge will’ do what we want." Foreign governments and some of our own representatives now dis- courage exhibiting images of our impaired and poor. In America many have grown to resent seeing their own living in poverty. Distancing themselves. It used to be that humanistic photography roused the viewer’s emotions, inspiring compassion and rallying support. Today often photographs of the poor and in- digent seem to stir disdain and create resentments. Have our eyes so dimmed and our hearts hardened that much? PORTFOLIO MAGAZINE 37