Well… where to start? The previous post "Approaching People for Portraits" from guest blogger, Neil Wade, has both inspired some to be more open to asking people for their photo as well as given rise to some serious concerns!
First, the issue is arising from 2 different sources 1) the post on our site; and 2) the link Neil provided to a post on his own site. I must address each of these and make a public apology.
1) The post on our site: I believe strongly in the value of posting guest bloggers from within our Visual Peacemakers Community. I believe that I do *not need to endorse or agree with everything someone says in order for me to post it. I, the Guild, and the Founders are not the moral police. However, it is my responsibility and passion to keep content in line with IGVP's Ethical Code and values.
The main point I see in Neil's post is that we can ask to take someone's photo and we should get over the fears and just go for it. In concluding, Neil wrote: "But the real reward is making that connection between two very different people, and helping make the world just a little smaller, for the two of you and everyone who will see the photo and hear the story." This is in line with IGVP's values and purpose.
Neil spoke of asking for a photo a second time when someone says, "no." In reading this, I knew that I always back off when asked not to take a photo. It seemed to me that Neil's approach to act goofy and funny could be a good ice-breaker if in fact the person was just feeling shy. So, though I wouldn't do this, that was no reason for me not to post it. Erin & Ray have responded by pointing out that this could be a way of "shaming someone into the photo" or as "holding someone hostage to your emotions and wants." Wow! Strong words. The scary thing for me is that I think they could be spot on here. I'm not totally sure. I mostly think it's going to depend on the person, location, culture, and specific situation. Our Ethical Codes states that "We refrain from making an image if asked not to." I do remember once in Turkey that I asked a very elderly woman for her photo and she declined. I made a sincere sad face without thinking about it and then she invited me back and we laughed together and I made images of her (SEE BELOW). I respected the younger (18 to 40 year old) ladies by not taking their photos. Anyways… share your thoughts about this on this blog. Let's explore it and grow wiser together!
2) The link Neil provided to a post on his site: Now here's where it gets sticky. I really appreciate Neil's time and effort in posting with us and the encouragement to interact with people, but I do feel that the language he is using on his site is un-helpful and inappropriate. Particularly we are talking about his two approaches to travel portraiture: "Hunting & Trapping." Using language like this can in fact affect our attitude.
This is where I must confess & apologize. I failed to follow that link and read it. I simply pasted it in our blog. It's true, the post on Neil's site, in several areas, totally contradicts what we're trying to foster in Visual Peacemaking photographers. For example, see the posts from Dr. Howard Zehr "Metaphors Matter." I posted this from Howard because they are in line with the attitude we should bring into "receiving" images and the importance of NOT using "predatory language" or having a "hunter's attitude."
Please forgive my oversight in not screening more fully what we were linking to. I know I represent many people and interests in this blog and I do that with honor and take it very seriously. I've also put Neil in a strange position because I'm having to say all this. I have written to him personally and apologized as well. Though I disagree with the language Neil is using, and I challenged him to reconsider that language and change it, I think most of the essence of what Neil is doing is positive. My take is that Neil is seeking meaningful interactions. Where you want to protest, challenge, or affirm Neil, can I ask that you visit the link to his post and explore that with him directly. He deserves the right to be heard and clarify.
So there could be some hard conversations to come, but let's remember, we are peacemakers: We should seek to respect each other, extend forgiveness, ask for forgiveness, and be humble toward one another in hopes of reconciling differences and jointly forging solutions which are mutually beneficial.
Thank you, Mario Mattei.
Photo: Mario Mattei (The woman referred to in this post)