To take or to be taken, that is the question. Seriously, it’s not to be or not to be, Shakespeare didn’t have a clue. I kid! I have been reading a lot of photography books, blog posts and magazine articles. None are about gear or post-processing. Rather, they are about the process of photography, vision and learning to see. I find myself asking the question, do I want to take pictures or be taken. Do I want to go out just because I am a photographer and take pictures because that is what I’m supposed to do? The answer I keep coming up with is, no. Rather, I want to be in a place where I can be taken and then capture that. A place where I am open to that moment of perception where I sense or see an image because of a connection that happened. Does or will that connection always need to be recognized? No, I don’t think so, at least not at the moment of perception. But, I want to sense a connection. Here is what I do know. When that moment of connection does happen, I feel euphoric! It is a different feeling than when I am forcing an image or taking one. And, I’ve learned the images that take me are much more meaningful to me. My observation is others respond differently too.
An experience in Cuba started much of this thinking and introspection. For three years, I went to Cuba to take pictures. And by take, I mean that quite literally, because it dawned on me that is exactly what I was doing. Taking from these people. In an effort to change my paradigm, I brought a Fuji Instax camera on my most recent trip. (Think Polaroid or an instant camera that produces a 2”x3″ picture) More importantly, I brought a different attitude. I was there this time to give and not take. The experience was liberating, and rewarding. Each time, I would ask permission to make their photograph. I would show them a sample image, then using hand gestures and my limited Spanish, explain what was going to happen. I was going to take their picture and give it to them as a gift. Once they understood, everyone engaged. When they saw the image develop right before their eyes, they became giddy, and excited. I enjoyed this new experience so much, that I found there were many times I did not want nor need to make another image with my “real” camera. I was content with the giving experience. Or, I found myself wanting to take their picture with them holding their gift. In the past I would have frowned on the idea of having this little 2×3 picture ruin my shot! But no, it was the shot! It was the connection and story. Below are a few of the happy faces after receiving their picture.
So what happened? By first thinking about them and creating a connection, they sensed I cared. In return, I was rewarded with many wonderful experiences. In fact, I was invited into the home of the family in the first picture and given gifts to bring home. Amazing! The group in the last picture engaged a few of us for 15 minutes expressing their gratitude for Americans. Talk about being taken! I was taken by these wonderful, happy and generous people.
If you want to see really great work from Cuba, visit Mark Steven’s site and read his many wonderful blog posts. His work is fabulous and he knows how to make connections better than anyone I’ve seen.