Against politically correct policing

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by unrealnature, Aug 2, 2014.

  1. I don't need somebody else telling me how my [gender/race/nationality, etc; whatever category that the PC police self-appont themselves to supervise] "ought" to be portrayed in photographs. I'd like to see all kinds of portrayals, by all kinds of people, from all kinds of viewpoints/perspectives and make up my own mind about what those pictures tell me both about what's in them and the person who made them.
    Not only am I, and I think most people, fully able, as free adults, not to need nannying and hand-slapping from outsiders, the constant SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH!!! of outrage about every little possibly, maybe, might-be perceived incorrect imagery; I think this kind of self-censoring is hugely damaging to how one is able to see pictures. It's intrusive, and, I think nearly ruinous to the possibility of expanding beyond the iconic or the propagandist, "acceptable" stance that is considered okay by the PC police.
    Setting aside PC policing of pictures or women, (gosh, Lisette, what were you thinking??), consider how hard it is for African-Americans to build a cultural portrayal that gets beyond stereotyping: "Iconic blackness as larger-than-life image (Rosa Parks, Jesse Owens, Martin Luther King Jr. to name just a few) and spectacular blackness -- from criminal deviance to excessive bodily enactments -- are the dominant visual modes for representing black subjects and black lived experience, in particular throughout the twentieth century." — Nicole R. Fleetwood
    Why does Stanley Crouch, when describing photos by Teenie Harris, feel the need to write as follows:
    "We can see as the little white boy stands with the other kids and listens to the black man play the small piano somewhere out on a Pittsburgh street that he is not assuming that he is among exotics or savages or coons."
    "The white kids who are present at a black baptism aren't acting as though they are lost in some kind of urban jungle and might be only a few minutes from a cook pot once the natives notice their presence."
    "The handsome black lifeguard and swimming instructor standing in the pool and showing kids, black and white, how to keep afloat and get from one place to the other exhibits neither subservience nor condescension, just pure professionalism burnished with grace."
    "Those white guys with the black girlfriends and the dignified but melancholy white woman sitting next to her black guy don't seem to feel as though Tarzan and the apes form a good metaphor for their experience."
    Why use words like "coon" and "natives" and "Tarzan"? Because, I think he knows they'll shock white people like me out of my politically correct, paternalistic smarminess when looking at Harris's "nice" portrayals of his home town. The trouble is, that in doing so, in needing to do so, he's blotted out my ability not to see the pictures in those terms. Now I've got coon and native and Tarzan on my mind and I've lost the ease of just pondering the pictures, letting the pictures do their own work.
    As Crouch notes later, "Unless something of imperishable value from the dead world of the past is held onto, the undeclared audience that we all are could get that dead world dead wrong." I totally agree; and I think the iconic/propagandic, and the politically correct -- which certainly have their purpose and power within the political arena -- stand between, thwart and even prevent a full, rich and deep portrayal in all its glorious and inglorious un-PC human imperfection.
    As Richard Wright wrote, "our history is far stranger than you suspect, and we are not what we seem."
     
  2. " Our history is a make up history and nothing to do with a real history."
    " People not supposed to know the real history."
    " History is always written by the victorious."
    " Truth has no political correctness."
    " People watching "Reality Shows", but, they have no idea of reality around them."
     
  3. Why are you paying attention to these commentators? They are promoting their own agenda on the back of another persons work and often doing it with a large chip on their shoulder. I notice this a lot when I look to see what the thought police are up to. I generally ignore them as they serve no useful purpose. See through your eyes, not Crouch's.
    Rick H.
     
  4. Is the problem taking the pictures or is it finding a market for them? As a PJ I have always known that I could take (and do) take pictures that will not make it to print. Is this political correctness or simply understanding a market and then creating a product to fill that market.
    From a commercial standpoint (and therefor from a publishing standpoint) any picture with a strong political point of view is self-limiting. Unless the photo transcends politics and cultural sensitivities its subject both sells and limits its sale. My point is that often what is described as PC is actually a commercial decision.
    Suppose I was editing a newspaper in New Orleans. A freelance PJ takes a picture of a minstrel show revival done by some civil war reenactors. If I choose not to publish the picture I can be certain that many people would call my decision political correctness. I would maintain that it is not that at all. It is my editorial judgment based upon my desire to serve my market. This picture could not stand as wild art without a story to support it and I may not feel that story worthy of the space. Do I know that the picture may offend a number of my readers? Sure. Editors offend readers all of the time. It is sort of what editors do/control. But when deciding to offend, there should be some compelling motive for accepting that offense. It should serve some greater purpose than simply publishing the salacious and such.
    When we look back on pictures of black Americans from the 1940's and 50's we are observing a world in which political correctness itself demanded that whites and blacks rarely be shown freely associating. Not having blacks date whites or Jews as members of one's country club WAS politically correct then. Never but never would you see a story about homosexuals or a Japanese man dating a white woman. We have to be careful about the use of the term 'political correctness'. It is a moving target. I think we are moving in the right direction. It would be odd to wish to reset the clock.
    The internet offers a venue for artists unlike anything before. You can publish just about anything and maybe even find an audience for it. This was certainly not always the case. So my point is that no matter what one defines as 'politically incorrect', unlike in the past, it finds a potential audience on this media. So with the possible exception of clearly illegal subject matter, there has never been a better time to publish just about anything.
     
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Why are you paying attention to these commentators? ... See through your eyes, not Crouch's.​

    Crouch's view will be very different from the view of most white Americans. That's why. One can stick their head in the sand and pretend that they understand everything, but they don't. That's why we need people like Crouch.
     
  6. So, Julie, you've self-appointed yourself as the "PC police" police. Clarify for us how that is a more attractive position, please? It appears that you're doing exactly what you criticize.
     
  7. I am politically incorrect, that's true. Political correctness to me is just intellectual terrorism. I find that really scary, and I won't be intimidated into changing my mind. Everyone isn't going to love you all the time.
    —Mel Gibson​
    Mel Gibson is what he seems. Yet he uses the current trendiness of calling an attempt at remedying the wrongs done to others and a move toward sensitivity to other human beings "political correctness."
    Anyway, of course monitoring language and our photographic output can be overdone and we always need to be vigilant to allow free speech. But, when we put up a photo or exercise our free speech, it's best to remember that all kinds of people have all kinds of freedom to react. So, you make a photo that's the equivalent of yelling "Kike" out of your car window, and you may get a bunch of people screaming back at you. Call the response political correctness or whatever you want, it's a great and fitting response.
    In a lot of ways, I think political correctness can go too far, for sure. But in as many ways, people are using a trend against so-called political correctness in order to reassert their racist, homophobic, and misogynistic views . . . or pictures.
    ______________________________________________
    The power to react negatively to a photo is just as vital as the power to make and show a photo. The power to point out the culturally ingrained symbols and signs in a photo is just as important as the power of any symbols and signs to the artist and photographer to begin with.
     
  8. Freedom to present your views in a photo means that others should have the freedom to comment on your photo's point of view whether you agree with their comments or not. A society can't be half free where only certain people have the right of self expression. Who's going to decide who has this right? "Shutting" people up is a dangerous road to travel down.
     
  9. he's blotted out my ability not to see the pictures in those terms.​
    I don't allow critics to do that. First off, I usually don't read critical commentary until I've looked at the photos or movie or play or exhibition myself. And, then, once I've seen the work, I've usually formed my own opinions about it and felt it and analyzed it however I wanted. When I read the critic, I do so as critically as the critic observes the photos. I may or may not get anything out of what the critic writes. To me, a critic adds a voice to a dialogue, often a knowledgeable one that I can learn from and just as often with a sense of taste I don't share. I always feel free to accept or reject what a critic, a friend, a curator, even the photographer himself or herself (a little "political correctness" thrown in for good measure) says. It's all part of the conversation.
     
  10. Julie - "Why does Stanley Crouch, when describing photos by Teenie Harris, feel the need to write as follows:..."
    Here's my take. If Stanley thought that in that past all whites acted from pejoratives, here are pictures that show that not all whites in the past acted from pejoratives. He felt the need to correct himself for having had a previous misperception about all whites in the past. In Teenie's pictures Stanely is seeing some pretty normal human interaction in the past when of that past he previously may have thought those normal human interactions between whites and blacks just weren't possible because of how "those people" [whites] were. So he may have had the experience of pictures confronting his own stereotypes of whites and felt the need to write about that experience. Because thought of himself that he had it dead wrong, and wouldn't have known that about himself if he hadn't seen those pictures.
     
  11. "The trouble is, that in doing so, in needing to do so, he's blotted out my ability not to see the pictures in those terms."​
    Good point. Words have meaning and power. Otherwise the momentum of social media wouldn't be so powerful.

    Other than Carlos Danger's real life political avatar, few politicians have been brought down by photographs. Most have hanged themselves on their own words, often in 144 or fewer characters.

    Most of the misinformation and disinformation I see on Facebook from well meaning family and friends have little to do with taking a photograph out of context and everything to do with taking words out of context, or spreading outright lies, propaganda and misattribution - often with the photograph of the alleged guilty party attached only as an artifact.

    If words about photographs had no power this forum wouldn't exist. We certainly wouldn't see the "he said/he said/no I didn't, YOU said" discussings and cussings over what photographs mean and the meaning of meaning.
     
  12. Julie - "The trouble is, that in doing so, in needing to do so, he's blotted out my ability not to see the pictures in those terms."
    Then imagine instead that you are an African American and that those words almost blotted out your ability to see yourself and your people in your own terms.
     
  13. Lex, I agree that words have power, which is why so-called political correctness ever took form to begin with. Alec Baldwin calls gay people fags. That word has a lot of power and a lot of negative attachments for a lot of people. Then people who aren't all that empathetic with gay people accuse the gay people who go after Alec Baldwin for using that word of "political correctness." Now the phrase "political correctness" takes on a power of its own.
    In some cases the phrase "political correctness" is used every bit as powerfully and as charged as "fag" or as whatever epithet bothered the "politically correct" to begin with. When political correctness got brought up in this thread, for the fun of it, I googled "Maya Angelou and political correctness" and got to see how hate-filled and misinformative those who charge Angelou with political correctness are. In some cases, it just sounded like "politically correct" was substituting for another epithet we've all come to know and hate.
     
  14. Julie - "...consider how hard it is for African-Americans to build a cultural portrayal that gets beyond stereotyping..."
    It's that hard because African Americans aren't the one's building the cultural portrayal.
     
  15. Julie - "Why use words like "coon" and "natives" and "Tarzan"?"
    (You forgot "exotics".) Those words are examples of racial epithets whose use generally is not politically correct. But you're suggesting Crouch in using racial epithets was doing PC policing of the kind you are against? How is Crouch's use of racial epithets PC policing? I fail to see how Crouch was functioning as a PC cop when he used racial epithets that were not PC. Note I'm not suggesting that Crouch's use of those terms was not politically correct use. What isn't politically correct as I understand that term would be to call other people those things, generally speaking. Therefore Crouch's usage was PC. So was it Crouch's PC usage that came across to you as him doing some PC policing?
    Consider that you go on to say Crouch's use of racial epithets had the effect of knocking you out of an attitude of "politically correct, paternalistic smarminess" that you would otherwise have adopted when looking at "Harris's "nice" portrayals of his home town."
    What's the attitude that Crouch knocked you out of, an attitude of smarminess that was paternalistic and politically correct? Is there such a thing as a paternalistic smarminess that is politically correct? Smarminess may be neutral to the political correctness police, but paternalism isn't politically correct as I understand political correctness; unless the word paternalistic is used to describe an attitude that an adult holds toward children, or used to characterize a less than ideal attitude. We just don't praise a paternalistic attitude held by men towards grown women, for example. To have a paternalistic attitude toward other adults isn't viewed as appropriate, whether politically correct or not. Therefore, and it is confusing to me, is it that you had a politically incorrect attitude of paternalism; you were aware of that paternalism as politically incorrect; you encountered Crouch's PC usage of racial epithets and felt you had been policed? Then you wished he hadn't used those terms so you could instead have the pictures work on you more slowly toward the same result?
    You say that Crouch thought he knew as he wrote that his use of racial epithets would shock white people like you and me out of an attitude. How would he know what attitude that was, there are so many attitudes white people like you and me could have, why write to one that is so hard to conceive of and express?
     
  16. Julie "Now I've got coon and native and Tarzan on my mind and I've lost the ease of just pondering the pictures, letting the pictures do their own work."
    And you fault Crouch for putting those words in your mind? Who put those words in his mind, and how does he feel about that? That's the crux of it, not that your enjoyment of looking at pictures has been disturbed.
     
  17. I used to be fond of saying that the West was just as controlling on its people as the Soviet Union but instead of sending the thought police around in the middle of the night and having you sent to a Gulag we do it much more insidiously, we viciously mock ideas, demote or retard a person's progress often to the point that they become imprisoned in perpetual poverty.
    The reason why Political Correctness is out of control is that many careers are completely dependent on it.
     
  18. But if "politically correct, paternalistic smarminess" means "my political correctness that can come off to other whites as a sort of paternalistic smarminess towards whites" then sure, here's an African American writer of an article who uses disturbing words that wouldn't be PC when spoken by a white person. That disturbing sort of language can interfere with a fuller appreciation of the pictures. I think that just goes with the territory.
    The thing is, PC does limit the discussions we can have about race. It's a sort of official directive to only discuss race within the boundaries that PC creates. Fleetwood notes that the official PC story of race is marked by icons accompanied with a mostly white sanctioned liberal narrative that puts the issue of race in the past, limits it to a discussion of whether one has bad attitudes or not, etc. The PC boundaries put discussions of reparations off the table, for example, and the list of what is off the table is long, wide, and deep. The problem is that most anti-pc narratives advocate for a revisionist history and seek to move the discussion back in time instead of forward.
     
  19. Clive, I think PC is usually a lazy, quick way to feel virtuous; and/or a bludgeon to use against those who disagree with the party line.
    My comment, "The trouble is, that in doing so, in needing to do so, he's blotted out my ability not to see the pictures in those terms," was not a complaint; it was recognition of and sympathy for the Catch-22 cage about which Crouch is writing.

    To expand on the OP:

    Can you look at THIS PHOTO and see 'a little kid who has lost his father'? Or must that view be smushed under the freight of 'African American boy in America'? If you respond with a chipper, PC, "Both!,", I'll say, bulls***. They're duck/rabbit -- the latter consumes the former and that consuming one is a monster where the other is a mouse. [image is Untitled by Leroy Henderson, ca. 1989-1991]

    "As modern visual poets, they [black photographers] were equally concerned with locating and reproducing the beauty and fragility of the race, the ironic humor of everyday life, the dream life of a people. Whether through portraiture or impromptu "street" shots, black photographers sought to capture something deeper than victimization, more complex than a heroic rebellion against the Man. And they found it: the interior life of Black America, the world either hidden from public view or forced into oblivion by the constant flood of stereotypes," writes Robin D.G. Kelley in the Foreword to Reflections in Black.

    That's a nice sentiment, but it simply isn't enough to do the job. It just encourages more strenuous PC filtering to "nice" stereotypes. As Nicholas Natanson wrote of the twentieth century portrayals of African Americans, you had your Colorful Black, your Black Victim, your Noble Primitive, and, best of all, your Role Model, framed by the limits of the hypervisible icons and all the rest, the ever invisible.

    See Roy CeCarava (one of the best, IMO, photographers of his or any time as I've said more than once in these forums) talking about one of his best photographs Dancers [ LINK ]:

    "... it's about these two dancers who represent a terrible torment for me in that I feel a great ambiguity about the image because of them. It's because they are in some ways distorted characters. What they actually are is two black male dancers who dance in the manner of an older generation of black vaudeville performers. The problem comes because their figures remind me so much of the real life experience of blacks in their need to put themselves in an awkward position before the man, for the man; to demean themselves in order to survive, to get along. In a way, these figures seem to epitomize that reality. And yet there is something in the figures not about that; something in the figures that is very creative, that is very real and very black in the finest sense of the word. So there is this duality, this ambiguity in the photograph that I find very hard to live with."

    For years before I read that from DeCarava, I loved that picture without seeing anything more than a fantastic evocation of the feel of dancing. I wish I had not read about his misgivings. And it scares me to think that he's shooting with these hesitations limiting his response. What have we lost because of it?

    Crouch, it seems to me is kicking both the PC police and the Roy DeCaravas of the world in the head, out of pure frustration; he's chaffing against the confines of this limiting, silencing, self-censoring, gag that prevents free expression.

    What strikes me about the pictures in Deborah Willis's Reflections in Black is how careful the pictures are. Watchful, deliberate (which sense DeCarava's comment supports, even though, to my mind, his pictures most often exceed/escape this limit). This is censoring from within which is reinforced by PC censoring from without -- both of which filter, distort and limit the fullness of what is shown.

    Can you look at THIS PHOTO by Renée Cox and see a nude, or must it be ... oh, wait. Renée has already answered the question for me ... LOL

    [Rick M, this is off topic, but at the end of Crouch's piece on Teenie Harris, who was a PJ in Pittsburgh, he writes this: "We should remain ever proud of that fact [that Harris compiled this body of work], and be grateful to him for knowing what had to be done and for rising up from the world of wishing into the very special one where those who choose themselves for the tasks get the invaluably human jobs done."

    With so many small newspapers disappearing, who, in the future, will "know what has to be done," to "choose themselves" and "rise up from the world of wishing" to do that job? Who will commit a lifetime to such community projects?]
     
  20. For years before I read that from DeCarava, I loved that picture without seeing anything more than a fantastic evocation of the feel of dancing. I wish I had not read about his misgivings. And it scares me to think that he's shooting with these hesitations limiting his response. What have we lost because of it?​
    Julie, it's probably just those hesitations—which are his authentic, genuine, and felt feelings—that gave him the passion and inspiration to shoot the way he did. They are causing, not limiting, his response. There's no perfect world where a photographer gets to have everything he wants in life. Some people suffer, some people have misgivings or hesitations. Those realities of life, good and bad, go into every good photographer's work. Why ask DeCarava to be who he was not or feel something "better" than you think he was feeling in order to make you a better picture?
    It's just these dualities and these tensions, IMO, that make for the best photos and art. I wish life and history were different in many ways but NOT because I think that would have made for better art. The artist takes whatever world he inherits or is in and the good and bad in his life and transforms it into art. Sometimes he uses his art to make life better in certain ways, or at least bearable. What would this artist have done if he hadn't been starving, that artist have done if his father didn't beat him, that other artist have done if the love of his life hadn't left him? It just doesn't work that way.
    I'm not saying I want people to have painful lives so they can bring me art. I'm saying life has its miseries, its doubts, its flaws, its hesitations, and I want people to be able to express those in their art and talk about that in their statements to me. Art is not some gallery experience that's there only for MY benefit. It's a sharing from artist to viewer and I don't want the artist hiding away his reality, his thoughts, his process, his doubts because I want some kind of unfettered artistic experience. That would be putting art in a vacuum. Art is too lived for that.
     
  21. There is a way that you can very easily get to look at Teenie Harris' pictures without having them coloured by Crouch's comments. All you have to do is start calling him "Crouch the Grouch" or even just "grouch" - childish I know, but effective all the same, because you've in effect placed an equivalent layer of bias or bile on the writing to even things up.
     
  22. Julie - "Crouch, it seems to me is kicking both the PC police and the Roy DeCaravas of the world in the head, out of pure frustration; he's chaffing against the confines of this limiting, silencing, self-censoring, gag that prevents free expression."
    Crouch's use of racial epithets was PC and you haven't made a case for his having written anything that could be construed as a kick at PC police.
    Crouch's comments that included racial epithets weren't a kick at the DeCaravas of the world either. That's because DeCarava commented on African Americans while in contrast, Crouch commented on the behavior of whites around African Americans, saying over and over that in the photographs the whites weren't acting like they thought African Americans lived up to those negative stereotypes. It also wasn't Crouch kicking the PC police when he praised the photographer and his pictures. Can't Crouch just give well deserved praise because he felt grateful and only offer that praise because he felt grateful to have the pictures? Why attribute some veiled motivation to his praise, or veiled motivation to any of his comments? Could it possibly be that he meant exactly what he wrote?
    Where exactly in the text does Crouch express frustration with the PC police directly, where in the text does he say he is poking fun at gaging censors, feels silenced, gagged, and not free to self express? Where does Crouch give any indication that he isn't just giving his readers an account of his own personal experience while viewing the photographs?
     
  23. From Julie's quote of DeCarava "The problem comes because their figures remind me so much of the real life experience of blacks in their need to put themselves in an awkward position before the man, for the man; to demean themselves in order to survive, to get along. In a way, these figures seem to epitomize that reality. And yet there is something in the figures not about that; something in the figures that is very creative, that is very real and very black in the finest sense of the word. So there is this duality, this ambiguity in the photograph that I find very hard to live with."
    Of which Julie writes "And it scares me to think that he's shooting with these hesitations limiting his response."
    DeCarava didn't write that he photographed with hesitation, didn't write that he limited his response. He describes how the picture he took conveyed to him both content that was deeply troubling to him, and deeply inspirational, that he photographed a duality. He didn't hesitate to photograph duality, he didn't limit himself to picturing only something nice, he didn't flinch and not take a photograph that spoke directly of men who in their attitude endured and prevailed despite a plethora of horrid conditions that we are all too familiar with. He didn't hesitate to show us a deep injury so difficult to contemplate, he didn't hesitate or limit himself in communicating to us with words exactly what the injury was and about how in their injury's expression he found something magnificent there. DeCarava has given us to contemplate what we have lost because of injury and we've lost nothing from DeCarava at all. We've only been enriched by his unhesitating ability to communicate both with a photograph and with words.
    There was more to see in that photo than "...a fantastic evocation of the feel of dancing" and we can't un-ring the bell once we've seen it.
     
  24. Julie - "Can you look at THIS PHOTO and see 'a little kid who has lost his father'? Or must that view be smushed under the freight of 'African American boy in America'? If you respond with a chipper, PC, "Both!,", I'll say, bulls***. They're duck/rabbit -- the latter consumes the former and that consuming one is a monster where the other is a mouse. [image is Untitled by Leroy Henderson, ca. 1989-1991]"
    Let me reconstruct those questions into several. Can you look at this photo and see it solely as ‘a little kid who has lost his father’? Does the freight associated with the term ‘African American’ interfere with our natural propensity to empathize with the grieving subject in purely human terms? Does the volume level of that freight interference rise to the level of drowning out the universal that is human grief and loss? Is that volume loud enough that it is as a monster consuming a purely sympathetic/empathetic view (the mouse)?
    Does anyone's mention of gender/race/nationality always come off as something that is just PC, 'PC' speaking warranting anything from dismissiveness to castigation from the listner? Not always. There are also times when mention of gender/race/nationality turns into a negotiation for a 'PC pass card'. In a negotiation for a pass card, the discussion is still all about the listener and not much about 'the other' who is speaking.
    When the pass card isn't issued, then the refusal of a pass card becomes an injury to the asker that warrants anything from dismissiveness to castigation. Further discussion just gets shut down by the listener. Who in the dominant group hasn't said "Honestly, I just don't even notice that you're [non-dominant group member]?" A non-dominant group member thinks or says in reply: "You don't notice? That's funny, because I sure notice what I am - I have to." The grieving African American boy notices. We may not, we may say we don't: he doesn't have that luxury of not seeing. Seeing ethnicity: he has to. Just as instinctively as we in the dominant group don't see our own ethnicity, or gender, as significant factors in our 'personality'. We don't have to. We are barely even conscious of it.
     
  25. Following up on this topic I thought I'd introduce something about a photographer that was "discovered" but I'd forgotten her name - all I could remember was that she had been a nanny, so typed in "nanny photographer" and of course up comes Vivian Maier and of course countless articles along the same kind of path as Julie's original one.
    http://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/jul/20/finding-vivian-maier-review-exposure-photographer-nanny
    Can we look at Maier's work without it being coloured by all the hype about her being extremely private and a NANNY?
    Can we look at Van Gogh being influenced by all the deluded crazy artist stuff?
    or Picasso now that he's fallen foul of PC?
    Words like Nanny, non-professional and spy make her seem "interesting"and good for an amateur single woman. Many photographers are single, have a day job and are not amateur because they don't get paid to take photographs. Maybe its easier to talk more about the personality of the artist than their art.
     
  26. I try never to forget that there is a human being behind most works of art. I may swing back and forth between looking at the art divorced from the personality who made it and looking at the art as something made by the personality, but I can't see, for myself, choosing one over the other and not simply embracing or at least considering the fact that people who are nannies make art and the nanny part is interesting, or that a Jewish photographer who lived in European ghettos in the 30s made photographs and being Jewish in the ghetto was part of the story, both of the photographer and of the subjects. Art is not just an artifact. It IS a human interest story, even when it's more . . . or less. Yes, the artist is a factor in art and in its understanding and appreciation, therefore, in its experience. I've heard pretty much as much discussion about Maier's photos themselves as I have about the other stuff. One doesn't drown the other out. Maybe I'm just good at multi-tasking.
     
  27. That's an interesting observation, Clive. I'll admit I was initially intrigued by the epithetical characterization of Vivian Maier as the walking nanny-cam. Even the alternative backstory of her as an oddball or quirky personality - fueled in part by her own self-characterization as a "sort of spy" - seems inadequate and incomplete. According to anecdotes from some of the kids she cared for, and some folks who remembered her, she wasn't merely a disengaged, remote or distant photographer, isolated and even alienated from society. Apparently she did at least occasionally engage her subjects and chat with people, and was quite intelligent, articulate and opinionated about many issues. In any other context she would have been the ideal subject for a documentary photographer.
    But the more I looked at her photos, the less inclined I was to think of her in terms of what she did for a living. She was simply a remarkable street photographer by any standard, regardless of the unusual and somewhat haphazard curation of her work. She blurred the lines between street and documentary photography, as she had a unique vision and through-line that comes across despite the fact that she had no say in how her work is presented.
     
  28. Julie H: I don't need somebody else telling me how my [gender/race/nationality, etc; whatever category that the PC police self-appont themselves to supervise] "ought" to be portrayed in photographs. I'd like to see all kinds of portrayals, by all kinds of people, from all kinds of viewpoints/perspectives and make up my own mind about what those pictures tell me both about what's in them and the person who made them.
    This is the crux of the matter for me. I can only say that I agree with this opening statement. I believe it was Fred who mentioned that reactions against PC can be a mask or justification for racism and prejudice. True, but my take on the current atmosphere in some quarters (college campuses in particular) is that it has become a way of smothering opposing points of view. Not long ago, the UC Berkeley student government banned the use of the term "illegal immigrant". As liberal as I am, I found it chilling and I believe it bleeds over into photography and critiques of photography. "Repugnant" is the word that comes to mind.
    consider how hard it is for African-Americans to build a cultural portrayal that gets beyond stereotyping​
    Based on what you go on to write, Julie, I understand you. But I wonder why African-Americans, or any other sub-grouping of human beings, requires the building of a cultural portrayal. A cultural portrayal of African-Americans would encompass so much (and so much of it would be universal to mankind in general) that I don't know how, or why, one could do such a thing. Certainly there are aspects of life and culture that are unique to African-Americans, but to select only those aspects would be limiting and not a true cultural portrayal if they excluded the universal aspects that all human beings share.
    On the DeCarava photograph of the two men dancing -- I have seen that image before and, prior to reading the comments you quoted, always thought it was a wonderfully captured moment of expression through dance...regardless of the skin color of the dancers. Although the commentaries do change interpretation, they do not ruin or spoil my initial take on such photographs.
     
  29. I wonder why African-Americans, or any other sub-grouping of human beings, requires the building of a cultural portrayal​
    It's empowering. Many subgroups have had their power diminished by such things as institutional racism and sexism, legal discrimination, lynchings, hate crimes, etc. The assertion of specific cultural signs, symbols, rituals, music, art, dress, dance helps foster just the sense of pride that the outside majority often has sought to destroy.
    I don't know how, or why, one could do such a thing​
    I've tried to address the "why" above. As to the "how," I just look around me here in San Francisco and marvel at the rich tapestry of cultures which often do have overlaps and shared universal humanizing elements as you suggest, Steve. And they also seem to have significant particular and unique elements, each of them celebrating a more local history and sensibility. I'm thankful there's a Jewish culture, a gay culture, an African-American culture. (Interestingly, "African-American" has been used readily here and I'm sure some would say it's one of the politically correct replacements to other terms that they would deem already sufficient.). And I'm even happier for some of the more colorful subcultures (Hassidic culture, drag culture) that spring up as well.
    I think for every example like UC Berkeley and "illegal immigrant" there's probably an example we've all come to accept more hospitably over time because of the knowledge that language can be very powerful. When I grew up, it was very common to hear the term "idiot savant." I'm thankful that's changing. "Idiot" puts a distinct spin on something that really doesn't need it.
    As for portrayals in photographs or media in general, I take it on a case by case basis and wouldn't generalize. And there's a difference between a critic critiquing a photo and an official student body issuing a binding decree. I'm pretty OK with the fact that black people are no longer portrayed like Amos and Andy. I think we've moved in that direction as a society but it's taken some awareness-raising and that happens on all fronts. Freedom to portray black people or gay people any way you want is freedom of speech, even if you want to make certain minorities look like fools as long as you're not inciting violence (and that's not always easy to assess). Freedom to react negatively to some portrayals is also just fine. Calling those reactions PC can also be a way of stifling opposing points of view.
     
  30. I think of PC as standing for the language to use in polite company. It's polite in polite conversation to not use racial epithets. It's polite to use gender neutral language. In polite conversation, there are a lot of words we don't use.
    "The UC Berkeley student government has banned the term “illegal immigrant” from its discourse, deeming the phrase racist, offensive, unfair and derogatory." http://www.thecollegefix.com/post/15260/
    The UC Berkeley student government spoke to the issue of what they consider polite language in UC Berkeley student government discourse. That's how they voted and that representative body explained their reason for doing so.
    From the same source: "In an unanimous vote, student senators passed a resolution that stated the word “illegal” is “racially charged,” “dehumanizes” people, and contributes to “punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color.”
    Steve - "But I wonder why African-Americans, or any other sub-grouping of human beings, requires the building of a cultural portrayal."
    There is a cultural portrayal already of those sub-groups, for example in movies and on TV. For the most part, those portrayals are produced by the dominant group. For the most part we haven't yet heard those stories as told by those groups themselves.
     
  31. Anyway, this thread is now becoming more of an Off Topic thread and I would appreciate it if a moderator would close this thread.
     
  32. Closing the thread seems premature. It would be better if the participating members voluntarily kept in mind the core purpose of the website and forums and redirected their comments toward relevance to photography. There's plenty of room for that within the context of this discussion. Closing the thread prematurely would deprive members of that opportunity, and so far there has been nothing abusive or too far afield in digression that the thread is beyond redirection. It's up to each participant to take up the challenge to phrase their comments in the context of photography.
     
  33. Steve, I probably shouldn't have used the word 'build' a cultural portrayal. How about 'do' or 'make' or just 'photograph'? I don't care a whit if what is given is 'unique' or necessarily distinct from other cultures. What I'm wishing for is a freedom (or forgetting of non-freedom) to show the 'inside' of a culture instead of always needing to do what I think you're talking about -- a 'public' or group culture that is 'opposed to' or, again, 'unique' or distinct from.
    Let me see if I can illustrate with a story. This is from 'A Sunday Portrait' by Edward P. Jones found in Picturing Us: African American Identity in Photography edited by Deborah Willis. This is a long extract, but I hope you'll find it worth reading:
    "I have [ ... ] a photograph of a grandly beautiful dark woman sitting in a long-sleeved white dress with a black bow just below the neck. She is wearing pearl-like earrings. There might well be a ring on the third finger of her left hand, but then, too, it might be the way the light is playing with the fingers of that hand. She holds white gloves and a black purse in her lap and wears a knitted hat that I believe my sister and I played with when we were children. My then-unmarried mother, who would have been Jeanette Satana Majors in that photograph, smiles complacently, as if only good and wonderful things will come her way. And to see her sitting there, that precious face on the verge of a smile, I am reminded all over again how that, in so many ways, did not happen.
    [ ... ] "The first time I ever say the photograph I was twenty-four years old and my mother had been dead and buried about a month. ... Until seeing that picture, I had no idea that my mother had ever looked so majestic, and so young and innocent. ... I suppose if forced to as a small child, I might well have said that there was a kind of attractiveness about her, an attractiveness that began to fade after years of slaving for herself and her children as a dishwasher and floor-scrubber, after being forced to place her beloved retarded son, her youngest, in an institution, after years in a relationship with a boyfriend who gave her no sustenance, after three strokes that froze the right side of her body, after lung cancer took final hold of her face and body and twisted her into the same lump of clay God must have seen the moment before he shaped and first breathed life into her.
    [ ... ] "Had I the power [to go back in time to the day the photograph of his mother was made] ... I would have walked up that street and met that woman who was to become my mother. Touched her hand the second before she reached for the knob of the door of that photography shop, taken her hand and asked her to believe what I was about to say.
    ... "Save yourself, I would have told her. Save us all. Do not marry him, I would have said of my father, dooming myself, my brother, my sister to some universe of never-to-be-born beings. ... Save yourself. ... I would have wanted to tell her to go off and see as much of the world as she could, come back, and then go off and see it all over again. See so much of the world that you come to learn the hearts of men-people and what kind of heart will best be a companion for yours, for my father's heart would not be, my heart will not be, and the hearts of the men who come after him will not be either."
    [There's more to the story, but I'll jump to the ending:]
    [ ... ] "Sometimes, in a fanciful moment, after I have watched her walk out of my sight, I open the door of the shop. I sit on the same stool my mother-to-be has just sat on. Take my picture, I tell the photographer. Take my picture the same way you took that of the woman who came before me."
    The only photograph he gives me is of a very lovely woman sitting in her Sunday best. I do not get photography that tells the story that he has put into words, the 'inside' of his life. And out of all the stories in this book, this is the only one that seems to me to be unburdened, freed from larger social issues. All the others circle history, society, and the 'outside' issues that face African Americans in this country. Yes, those are very much to do with Picturing Us, but why is there this blank void where what is often labeled (in photography in general) as 'confessional' photography? Personal stories? (Nan Goldin, Larry Clark, etc.)
    I have never seen, and I can't even imagine an African American book comparable to Richard Billingham's Ray's a Laugh. What I see, instead, is a persistent Lake Wobegon-ing of the African American personal life ("where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average"). Even the beloved DeCarava/Hughes Sweet Flypaper of Life comes off, to my eye, as a reverencing of the Noble Downtrodden. Always, the African American photography seems to feel, to me, to be in the service of some larger message. I would like to see some photography that is not 'in the service of' or frankly protective of some larger, politically correct, social image.
     
  34. I do not get photography that tells the story that he has put into words, the 'inside' of his life. And out of all the stories in this book, this is the only one that seems to me to be unburdened, freed from larger social issues. All the others circle history, society, and the 'outside' issues that face African Americans in this country.​
    I get to see the inside of his life because, as I see it, the so-called outside issues ARE inside his life. I suppose it would be nicer to get unburdened views, free from larger social issues. But I don't think photographers should flinch from showing their burdens. I'm fine with this kind of honesty, even if it's discomfiting to me.
    The outside gets inside in all sorts of ways. Ask many gay people if they experience internalized homophobia. Well, we internalize homophobia in many ways. Sometimes, it comes out as self-loathing (even in very unexpected and sometimes subtle ways that we don't always readily realize ourselves). But it also comes through as internalizing the "outside" world's view of us. Very hard to escape. That becomes part of a deeply personal experience. I think it's misleading to label this stuff "outside." Not when it is experienced so intimately.
    “I see myself because somebody sees me . . .” —Jean-Paul Sartre
     
  35. Let's see if I can pull this back to photography.
    Is it PC to photograph a homeless person?
    Is it PC to publish a photo showing a rich person living high-on-the-hog on his yacht?
    Is it PC to publish a photo showing a black man with his white girl friend?
    Is it PC to publish a photo showing a white man with his black girl friend?
    Is it PC to publish a photo showing an American soldier standing over the corpse of a dead Iraqi?
    Is it PC to publish a photo showing an Arab dragging an American soldier's body through the streets?
    Do you equate differences between these? Why? What photos would you consider being politically incorrect? Should we limit what pictures are published? Or do we damage free speech as well as an opportunity for making a point? Are you willing to allow the other person his license of satire? Or do you feel only your point is validly reflected in your photo? Do you laugh when you see a picture that shows people who believe differently from you being made fun of? Do you laugh when you see a picture that shows people who believe the same as you being made fun of?
     
  36. Alan, my answer is that I generally don't look at a photo and wonder if it's PC or not. I feel what I feel and think what I think and get whatever message I get. Same with text that may accompany photos. It's OTHERS who seem to be labeling these things PC or not PC. Some photos I find offensive, some I find funny, some I find ironic. As I said above, I take it on a case by case basis.
    IMO, there's no such thing as a photo of a homeless person. There's THIS photo of a homeless person and there's THAT photo of a homeless person and, because more than the mere subject of a photo hits me and affects me, one photo might offend me and another might elicit great empathy on my part. I couldn't possibly characterize "photo of a homeless person" as anything unless I had a specific photo of a specific homeless person in front of me.
     
  37. I wanted (needed) this photo to address a wider socio-political issue, even while also being personal, so the sign is important and, when I've shown it, it's usually been part of a documentary on the weddings that took place the day gay marriages first became legal in California, when San Francisco's City Hall was filled with gay couples who were exercising a right they'd been denied up until then. I usually accompany it with some background and history as well as some of my impressions of a politically and personally charged day that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
    00ckwu-550344484.jpg
     
  38. This photo doesn't necessarily need the wider view overtly stated. It didn't need a sign and needs no context or explanation. It's a more intimate and tells a more personal story and is probably a bit more of a universally human moment. Many, because it's a photo of two women, will still see this as having politics and sociology (both inside and outside) involved, and I have no problem with that. I see it as personal and intimate, but I also see it as political and social. I think to close my eyes to the political underpinnings of many, many photographs that could otherwise be seen as simply aesthetic or simply "inner" or simply beautiful or simply simple would be to deprive myself of an important layer of most photos and most art work. And if another photographer had taken this photo and wanted to share some of the politics that either went into their reason for having taken it or the way they now see it, I'd be happy to listen to it without it undermining the universal humanity of it and without characterizing the photographer as pushing a PC agenda on me.
    00ckwv-550344584.jpg
     
  39. Alan, PC means Polite Conversation. It's about our manners in public discourse, it's about our manners when we speak words. For example, in polite conversation it isn't appropriate to use the words Crouch did if you aren't African American. Because the ethnicity of the person speaking those words matters and can be hurtful just because of who says them. Polite conversation isn't about politics. It's about using words in public discourse that are respectful of other people's feelings.
    Polite conversation refers to what comes out of a person's mouth in the form of words in public discourse. Anything that a person wants to say can be said in a way that fits into a polite conversation. Being polite limits our manner of expression. Being polite does not limit the ideas we can express. Polite conversation only limits the words we use to express those ideas.
    Photography is not the speaking of words. Photography is pictorial communication, it isn't communication using words. People can take a photo of practically any thing they want for whatever reason.
    Alan - " What photos would you consider being politically incorrect?"​
    My answer is that none in your list is being politically incorrect. Here is why. Rephrasing your questions.
    Is it polite to photograph a homeless person?
    Is it polite to publish a photo showing a rich person living high-on-the-hog on his yacht?
    Is it polite to publish a photo showing a black man with his white girl friend?
    Is it polite to publish a photo showing a white man with his black girl friend?
    Is it polite to publish a photo showing an American soldier standing over the corpse of a dead Iraqi?
    Is it polite to publish a photo showing an Arab dragging an American soldier's body through the streets?
    We aren't limited by politeness very often when we photograph. When photographs are published, politeness is considered by editors. Editors also consider the political implications of a picture. 'Polite' and 'political' are different words for different things. A photograph isn't written speech, photographs are not words. They are photographs and can be political, or they can be apolitical. If they are obscene or sufficiently rude they probably won't get published in a newspaper of record, for example.
    We are obliged by etiquette to publically discuss photos using words that are suitable for public discourse, words suitable for polite conversation. There are a lot of words we don't use in polite conversation, and most of them don't have to do with race, creed, national origin, gender, abilities, etc.
     
  40. I wanted to watch the movie the Hunchback of Notre Damn (1939) and not have to hear that horrid Quasimodo soliloquy about "All my life, I've been ugly." I just wanted Quasimodo to be free up there with Esmeralda, that wonderful free feeling she inspired in him. That feeling was wonderful! I didn't want to see his inner world either, all polluted by how everyone thought he was ugly. What an insensitive movie! That movie was insensitive to how I just want to look at Quasimodo like I look at any other guy. I didn't want to see how life is different for Quasimodo just because of how he looked. I didn't appreciate Quasimodo's soliloquy. Because his soliloquy was so much about other people and how other people behaved toward Quasimodo. Which wasn't very good behavior I tell you. Life was perfect before I saw that movie, believe me.
     
  41. Everybody's soliloquy has something to do with how other people see us and how we might or might not see ourselves accordingly and to what degree. We are all Quasimodo. Only when we were children did we see face to face, now we know as through a glass darkly, in parts. From those parts we make a mosaic of our lives, we pick one part or another, or put them all in, always in a relation to other parts that comprise what as adults has become a broken whole. We are all broken. We can't have one thing without the other, it's childish to even want that.
     
  42. Better to see a glass as half full. God loves all his children.
     
  43. See, now, Alan, I offered you photography (which is what you asked for), but you chose God instead.
     
  44. So in some sense people's soliloquys are changing because society has changed, as evidenced by Fred's photos, if I may have permission to characterize them in that way.
    So I don't see how our internal dialogs, expressed as soliloquy, can change without it also coming about that there are changes in public discourse. Part of the change in public discourse has come about because we have listened to soliloquy, taken it in, heard it, have just listened.
    Alan some advice is helpful in certain circumstances. Good advice in some circumstances isn't good advice in other circumstances. Paraphrasing CG Jung, good advice usually isn't, but the antidote to good advice is that no one takes the medicine of good advice anyway, no need to administer an antidote for a medicine no one took.
    http://vimeo.com/78788086 The Ox. Would we have said to Eric 20 years ago "It will get better. See the glass as half full."? Because we care, we want to use the best medicine that we can when treating injuries. Sometimes we just don't have any medicine to offer except listening. Sometimes it is best to not offer advice at all. Our advice can just aggravate an injury.
     
  45. Charles W -- The UC Berkeley student government spoke to the issue of what they consider polite language in UC Berkeley student government discourse.
    In an unanimous vote, student senators passed a resolution that stated the word “illegal” is “racially charged,” “dehumanizes” people, and contributes to “punitive and discriminatory actions aimed primarily at immigrants and communities of color.”
    If someone takes a photograph of a person breaking into a home that is not their own and titles it "Illegal entry", is it impolite? racially charged? Or merely accurate given the fact that forcing entry into a residence not your own, without permission, is an illegal act? Likewise a photograph of a person -- regardless of nationality, race, or skin color -- who has gained entry into the United States (or France, or Bolivia, or Canada) without following the laws that govern entry of a foreign national into the country...would a title to the photo, "Charles, Illegal Alien" be impolite or racially charged?
    The acronym "PC" is generally understood to mean "Politically Correct", not polite conversation. However, as it is intended (or so I interpret it) to foster polite references to certain groups of human beings, then it could be stretched to include that a part of its meaning. But unless one has a particular axe to grind, or a photographic work is intended to be political (and many are -- the Renee Cox photo that Julie linked to earler being a good example), I think the term often has no place in what might roughly be called "artistic" photography. Art can enrage, frustrate, and enflame passions.
    Hmm.... link insertion does not seem to be working for me. Here is the link to the Renee Cox photo if anyone wants to look at it again:
    https://unrealnature.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/cox_renee_hottentot.jpg
    I do not know why you would call for the closing of this thread as it seems to have largely remained on photographic ground. When one considers photos, or aspects of photography, that are controversial or political in nature, it is sometimes necessary to reference aspects of that controversy or political concern that reach outside photography as examples of particular viewpoints that can impact photography.
    Julie -- What I'm wishing for is a freedom (or forgetting of non-freedom) to show the 'inside' of a culture instead of always needing to do what I think you're talking about -- a 'public' or group culture that is 'opposed to' or, again, 'unique' or distinct from.
    Julie, I understand you better and I did not mean to single you out as if I am against anyone, or any group, building a cultural portrayal.
    As level headed examples of two different types of marriage celebrations, I appreciate your two photographs, Fred. The photo of the two men with the sign is completely justified (not that one needs to "justify" it, I mean in a general sense -- I don't want to be misunderstood by choosing that word!) and even necessary to the narrative of what the photo is showing us.
    In considering the various points that have been raised in this thread (I regret not commenting on everyone's contributions...), a photograph of mine came to mind. If it is political, if it speaks to Black experience in this country, it was unintentional (in this, it ties into our other thread on Critiques of Intention). Back story -- I was in downtown Chicago in 2013, photographing the Blackhawks Stanley Cup Parade. I noticed a man in a porkpie hat headed toward me. He seemed almost from another era (I encounter this on occasion when photographing in the streets of Chicago) and I wanted to photograph him. That was the extent of my intent. Only afterward in developing, er, processing the photographs I had taken that day did I notice the glances that some people, Caucasian people, had given him. I make no judgment about their glances, because there wasn't anything that unusual about him and it is not as if a black man on the streets of Chicago is some sort of remarkable and unusual occurrence! But some people who have viewed the photograph have interpreted it as an example of racism. Maybe it was, I cannot say. An example of what I consider an "illusion of the literal" wherein what the camera appears to have recorded, in conjunction with a salient interpretation, may, or may not, have actually been the case. (Yes, I adapted it from Winogrand's quote).
    00ckyJ-550348384.jpg
     
  46. "now, Alan, I offered you photography (which is what you asked for), but you chose God instead". Fred.

    Well to some folk God is an invisible man somewhere up above us in the sky. He has 10 rules which if we do not follow he will send us to a hell of his making for eternity....scary stuff. Of course we can use him to justify our actions to murder folk who do not follow our particular understanding of him. Convenient, helps to hide our natural bloody thirsty nature.

    Some folk just believe he is just a fantasy much as the same as believing in faeries (short skirt variety) at the bottom of our garden.

    But we really do not know...it was not so long ago we believed the world was flat. So, better to keep an open mind.

    Good photos, Steve. Thanks.
     
  47. Steve, please stop grinding your axe about how a student government voted to close a discussion about the use of words. You don't have to discuss here how that term is just an objective descriptor to your ears. That issue was already decided. Now all you have to do is not use that term when speaking to that body. You want to grind your axe about that, sorry, the Off Topic forum is closed.
     
  48. A while back I had severe pains in my stomach...unbearable agony. Being at a loss as what to do to stop this pain I called on God as a last my hope.. Within 5 minutes the pain eased and stopped. Hocus Pocus, coincident, I do not know... Only that the pain left.
    So, can we leave God out of this post and move on.
     
  49. As to your picture, to me, Steve, your picture looks like one sane person walking along with a bunch nuts. You confirm it by saying those other people went to a hockey game.
     
  50. It is hard not to include mention of things like the influence of universities on the PC debate but lets look at this example which annoyed me a great deal. Several well known contemporary artists were invited to make a work for a charity fund raising project for the Sydney Children's Hospital an organisation with a very well known policy about the depiction of children, which, of course, is perfectly reasonable.
    One of the invited artists, Del Kathryn Barton, submitted this photograph of her semi naked son covered in spots/eyes.
    [​IMG]
    and of course the hospital rejected it, as one would expect...........the artist and her agent went straight to the press and the whole thing became a media frenzy - this is a fairly common technique used by artists and their agents to gain publicity and the useful title of "notorious" - so this is a case of a photographer exploiting reasonable PC to her own ends.
     
  51. Charles -- I quoted you in my last post. The only reference to student government in that post is contained within your quote -- only a portion of a more lengthy statement by you regarding the background of that event. Your insistence on bringing it up, yet again, in an attempt to tell me what I may, and may not, discuss in relation to photography is you grinding the axe. Not me.
    Then, as if your attempted scolding was not enough, you come back with an uncalled for, and off the wall response indicating that people who watch hockey games are "nuts". If you'd have paid attention to what was written, instead of making what appear to me to be angry, rude, and peremptory comments out of some sort of knee jerk reaction, you would know that those people did not attend a hockey game. Some of them were there for a parade, and some of them just happened to be walking down the street. Why is one person sane and the rest of the people in the photograph "nuts"? Where the heck did that come from? It bespeaks a contemptuous grudge. I do not understand you, Charles. Why do you seem to be so contentious? Why insult people who watch hockey games? Why get angry because, in one post, I mentioned a student body vote? Why refer to the work of another photographer as "crass" merely because you do not like or understand it?
    In this thread, and other recent threads, I have attempted to be civil and polite to you, to discuss some of your comments in a polite and understanding way...despite your frequent querulous attitude and your insistence on dragging threads in directions that the OPs never intended. There are too many other posters with valid and engaging comments for me to waste time trying to figure you out. For now, I am done addressing you in these threads.
     
  52. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/02/ap-drops-term-illegal-immigrant_n_3001432.html
    "The Associated Press dropped the term “illegal immigrant” from its style guide Tuesday, handing a victory to immigration rights advocates and Latino media organizations who have pressured the news media for years to abandon a phrase that many view as offensive." [emphasis added]

    Your mere use of that term to me is offensive. Very offensive. It's like calling people who go to hockey games nuts or something. Just gets me all riled up.
     
  53. a very well known policy about the depiction of children, which, of course, is perfectly reasonable.
    . . .
    semi naked son covered in spots/eyes.
    . . .
    and of course the hospital rejected it, as one would expect​
    I have a very different reaction.
    I might question the motives of the artist if I suspected she was acting purely out of a desire for publicity, though an artist seeking publicity is hardly among the worst things I've heard people do. But I'd stand with her on the actual case at hand, regardless of her intentions. Rather than questioning the artist, I'm much more inclined to question you and the hospital. You for characterizing this photo as "a semi naked son." I see the picture as a boy, a boy with spots, and a boy without his shirt. "Semi naked" never occurred to me. And the hospital for a bizarre policy or a bizarre interpretation or enforcement of a policy. I would really prefer not to live in a society that forbids showing a boy without his shirt in a photo exhibition, a benign, non-suggestive photo. To me, that's the story here, the hospital's policy. Not the artist's reaction. Obviously, the hospital may be within its rights to institute such a policy, but is HAS TO BE questioned and criticized by a more mature society. I would not expect the hospital to have rejected this at all. I find it shocking and pathetic that they did.
     
  54. Steve, your photo is an example of the potential for a photo to become more than the original situation provided and more than your intentions. It seems OK to see your photo in racial terms even if there was no racism actually involved and even if your intention had only to do with the fellow's hat or style. A photo frames stuff out and isolates a subset of the overall scene and context. In that respect, the photo takes on a meaning and life of its own, often beyond the meaning of the original scene itself. As I see it, the camera (regardless of your intention or lack of intention) isolated a sole black man in the midst of an otherwise white group of people. The young guy appears (he may not be) to be looking at the main subject. I don't see it as racist, but I see the photo as having the potential to tell a story about race.
    Now, if you were to tell me you framed it just this way and wanted to portray the black guy as alone in a crowd of white folks for whatever reason, I'd want to hear it. If a critic were to write about the racial implications of this shot, I'd listen as intently and interestedly and skeptically as I do to most critical interpretations. And I'd form my own judgment. I'd determine if you put a spin on the scene by looking at the rest of your work. If I found several other photos that suggested a particular view of race, even if I thought it unintentional, I might deduce that you have a predisposition to seeing the world a certain way and that your photos showed something of your thinking or your looking without your necessarily intending it. People have talked about things in my own work that have opened my eyes to my own photographic inclinations that I didn't do consciously and hadn't noticed but that make sense to me now that it's been pointed out. Knowing your work, I interpret it as a dynamic street shot with an interesting guy.
    I think it's got little to do with political correctness to consider when and how we see people. As a man, as a gay person, as a Jewish person there are times when I see myself and others just as people. But the fact is, I am white, I am gay, and I am Jewish and male. And sometimes those things become apparent in a visual way and also in a narrative way. And I don't shy away from the fact that those things are also parts of my identity (which is fluid, not fixed). So I don't mind, if there's a picture of me in a crowd, being seen as gay or Jewish or white or male if that can be made to be or appears to be part of some narrative. Sometimes people will assume I've photographed a certain way or have a take on something because I'm gay when I don't think that's the case. But I listen because even if it doesn't say something about me it says something about them and, as importantly, about how they see me. And that's OK. I can learn from them and I can correct them if I want.
    My parents grew up wanting "Jewish" to be not a hateful trait and not a dirty word and wanted to lift themselves out of the circumstances into which they were born and in which they were brought up. They accomplished that and were happy to be accepted simply as people, and for their Jewishness not to be made a big deal. And yet, they continued to want to assert their Jewishness. I understand that. It shouldn't have to be a choice, this or that. They were able to be both, regular people, accepted as equal human beings, and also proud Jews with a culture and a heritage. So it was and it wasn't a big deal, if that makes sense. If they wanted anything, it was to be seen as both. They were Jewish and they were people. It wound up working pretty well for them.
    In short, it doesn't much matter to me what was actually the case regarding your photo. Well, I shouldn't say that. Of course it does. And, if this were one in a series of more blatant negative glances (I don't happen to see any negativity in any of the glances) and a picture of racism were to develop, that would actually be very important to note and consider. But if people see it even if you know or think the situation wasn't like that, then the picture has stimulated something significant in these people worth acknowledging. Intentional or not, I can't imagine a better outcome than a photo of mine stimulating people to feel something and to think about important things.
    00cl0B-550354284.jpg
     
  55. Regarding Clive's post and the photograph Del Kathryn Barton took of her son:
    I was unfamiliar with Barton and the rejection of her photo so I tried to find an article about it to learn more. A quote excerpt from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald (bolding is mine):
    http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/why-this-photo-cost-hospital-a-charity-bonanza-20110104-19f54.html
    Tamara Winikoff, the executive director of the National Association for the Visual Arts, said decisions such as this were ''absurd and tragic''.
    She said that since the Henson scandal, when photographs of youths and children by Bill Henson, one of Australia's most famous artists, prompted media outrage and a police investigation, authorities were scared to associate themselves with any images of children.
    ''In our zeal to protect children we are erasing them entirely,'' she said.​
    I do not see anything objectionable in this photograph, particularly as it was taken by the boy's mother. I see nothing prurient in it whatsoever. I don't know what the "Henson scandal" involved. But fear over something inappropriate that occurred with another artist seems a bit of an overreaction. Lord knows what some of these people might make of Sally Mann's photographs of her children....made decades ago.
     
  56. Why does everything have to be run through a PC filter? We all need a sense of humor.
     
  57. Quite correct Steve and Fred, the majority view by a long way in Australia is that the picture isn't offensive, I don't think it is either, and in any situation other than in a charity fund raising event for the Sydney Children's Hospital (Government Funded) it would not even be provocative, the Bill Henson event is referred to here, again Sydney Morning Herald http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/art-and-design/henson-returns-to-the-most-provocative-landscape-of-all-20120912-25rrv.html
    But to me the important things here are the rights of the hospital to have a policy, which I think is quite reasonable, sure it can be questioned and everyone has such a right; at the time of the event that policy was the one that everyone knew was in place. All the artists involved knew about that policy and agreed to supply an appropriate work for the fund raiser. I question Del Kathryn Barton's intentions because she is primarily a painter and a painting by her would have provided the hospital with a great deal more cash that one of her photos.
    It is, on this occasion, not about questioning the policy, but providing the hospital with much needed funds.
     
  58. Clive: It is, on this occasion, not about questioning the policy, but providing the hospital with much needed funds.
    I understand better now. I agree that the hospital has the right to have whatever policy they deem best. Their primary function is to provide medical assistance to children, not provide an artistic venue. As an award winning painter, I do question why she would provide a photograph instead of a painting. Odd.
    Fred: If I found several other photos that suggested a particular view of race, even if I thought it unintentional, I might deduce that you have a predisposition to seeing the world a certain way and that your photos showed something of your thinking or your looking without your necessarily intending it.

    Interesting you would say that Fred. I hope I do not appear to be egotistical by including yet another photo, but there is one that I took in a Chicago neighborhood called Lincoln Square. I was at a Balkan Café photographing and interviewing a Serbian musician. Our table was at the front window of the café. While we were talking, I looked out the window and saw that there was a German American parade going down the middle of the street. A black woman was walking down the sidewalk, traveling in the opposite direction. I photographed her through the window of the cafe as she walked past while the parade was going on. Her head was hanging down. I believe it was chance, I don't think she was actually sad or downcast. The shot included white female German Americans, carrying a huge American flag, traveling in the opposite direction of the black woman. If one chose to see it that way (and some people have interpreted it so...), you could see a certain irony and symbolism in the image. Regardless, I don't think I have a great tendency toward showing that kind of a narrative in photographs -- some angst, alienation, and loneliness perhaps, but not restricted to any one race or gender, and not intended in any political sense.
    [​IMG]


    Fred: People have talked about things in my own work that have opened my eyes to my own photographic inclinations that I didn't do consciously and hadn't noticed but that make sense to me now that it's been pointed out.
    I think you mentioned something similar in the "Intentions" thread. And I think we can learn to see tendencies, themes, attitudes, that we might not have initially been aware of (from others, or from our own work after having produced a large enough body of work in a particular vein).

    Getting back to the original topic (as it relates to your comments about your parents -- and here I should add that the photo of your father reading Torah is one of my favorites -- love, significance, and personality) -- I think being accepted as "just people", while still being able to celebrate whatever religious, racial, sexual, or "other" grouping one is proud of, is the ideal state. Except for the fact that I too am Jewish (though not practicing or religious), I am part of an admittedly privileged class in the United States: a white male. Things have changed a lot, and continue to do so, so I don't think being a white male in 2014 has quite the same level of "privilege" as it did in 1954 or 1964, or perhaps even 1984. But being a member of that group, despite my "Jewishness" may have made me less equipped to understanding the importance of presenting a photographic record which celebrates a particular religion, race, or other grouping. (Can you imagine the assumptions that would automatically be made about any group that claimed, in this day and age, to celebrate being a straight, white American male? There are, and have been, such groups, but they generally wore swastikas or white hoods.) But then again, the word "celebrate" to some people means only portraying the good and the positive. Everything has its warts and imperfections and if you do not include those as well then what distinguishes such a body of work from propaganda? And such a thought takes me back to something Julie said in her opening post:
    Julie: "I think the iconic/propagandic, and the politically correct -- which certainly have their purpose and power within the political arena -- stand between, thwart and even prevent a full, rich and deep portrayal in all its glorious and inglorious un-PC human imperfection."​
    I want the full, rich, and deep portrayal that Julie speaks of, warts and all.


    Why am I even stating this? I am not arguing against anyone because I don't think anyone in this thread has posited that one must show only the positive. So this is not really aimed at anything you said, Fred. I'm just sort of adrift here, pondering some of Julie's opening statements, realizing that I initially took something she said out of context and interpreted it incorrectly, and find myself in complete agreement with her. But, as always, it has been an interesting journey.
     
  59. Steve's picture, Man in Porkpie Hat, Chicago 2013:
    Circular firing squad. Six different expressions of watching with eyes and/or ears. Seven if you count Steve. Watchers watching other watchers watching other watchers watching; circular. Nobody seeing (there's nothing to see but watchers watching ... ). An onion without a center.
    this poem is an onion
    for you mr old men because
    I want tears from you now
    and can't see how else to get them — C.K. Williams (fragment)
    Steve's second picture doesn't strike me as being any kind of conflict; I don't see friction. I see more a 'passing in the night' kind of thing. Rather than seeming lonely or alienated, to me, the foreground woman looks content (comfortably sexy/strong) in her own thoughts; head tipped out of respect for what she's passing without wanting to get any more involved.
    Addendum: I forgot to say something I meant to say about Man in Porkpie Hat, Chicago 2013: that I think it is wonderfully apropos because it could be a great illustration of political correctness in action (watchers watching watchers watching watchers, etc.).
     
  60. Yeah, thanks Julie, I can kind of see how a lot of social noise (e.g., its a picture of sports fans) from others would prevent you from coming up with an experience of a photo that is so uniquely your own, having little to do with the people pictured. Sorry. Instead of Williams, reach for this book: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invisible_Man Ralph Ellison
     
  61. Julie -- Thanks for the comments. I think my post came out a bit muddled on the German-American parade photo. I was responding to Fred talking about tendencies in photographs as it possibly related to PC. I do not think that the woman looks lonely or alienated, I was talking more about my work in general: what tendencies, if any, might be seen, and how I didn't think I have any tendencies toward politics or propaganda. I also hope I was clear in that I do not think either photo represents what some people have told me they see (racism in one, symbolic representation of black exclusion from mainstream American life in the other). They are titled the way they are for a reason ("Man in Porkpie Hat" & "German-American Parade"). I truly did not mean to take up space talking about my photos ("Me! Me! Me!") as an excuse to show them. I was trying to provide personal examples of images in which others had seen things that seemed to relate to some of the comments in this thread.
    Taking this in a broader direction: Julie, your comments...and this comment by Fred -- "And, if this were one in a series of more blatant negative glances (I don't happen to see any negativity in any of the glances) and a picture of racism were to develop, that would actually be very important to note and consider." Is it telling at all (and I think Fred did touch upon this) that some people see racial/political overtones in certain photographs, while others (including, possibly, the photographer) clearly do not? Have we become so charged with this consciousness of PC (or, have some of us become so charged with it...) that vision can actually become a bit obscured or deluded? Perhaps polarized is a better word. Fred's photo of the gay men with the sign, DeCarava's photo of the men dancing -- just as two examples -- I do not see propaganda, or representation of a sexual or racial state. Fred did not say anything about interpretations of his photo, so I'm projecting only possibility there*, but Julie did quote one interpretation of the DeCarava image that I understood, but did not see myself.
    (*a crude example of a possibility would be the interpretation of a right wing, fundamentalist Christian, who -- believing that marriage should be only between a man and a woman -- might see the photo as propaganda)
     
  62. Steve wrote: "Have we become so charged with this consciousness of PC (or, have some of us become so charged with it...) that vision can actually become a bit obscured or deluded?" YES! That's what I've been trying to get at. Thank you!!
    It's the catch-22 that from which Crouch can't extricate the audience -- from both directions (i.e. self-censorship by African Americans as well as PC filtering from non-African American audience).
     
  63. Julie, you forgot one angle. The desire for the muting, by some PC-accusers, of people like Crouch and Maya Angelou. I took Steve to be saying that he and you and I, any one of us, might be deluded by all of this. The potential for delusion can work all ways.
    [Addition: I don't think we're deluded by political correctness. I think we're often deluded or at least confused by differences we don't understand and the subtle and more obvious effect of those differences, ethnic, religious, sexual, gender, class . . . I think Steve addressed that honestly in his post in talking about being a part of the dominant culture. I experience it in being a white male in the gay community, having to be reminded at times that ethnic minorities within the gay community often go unnoticed. These are good reminders. I don't resent them but instead welcome them.]
    __________________________________________
    Steve, following along what I think you were getting at and what I'm trying to convey to Julie would be to consider not just the photo of the guys with the sign but the photo of the women without one. The sign makes the politics fairly obvious, though the politics could be ignored in favor of someone simply wanting to see two smiling young men hanging out on a nice day. But I chose to include the sign to give more information. The viewer has the choice to ignore it if they want and I wouldn't exert control of the viewer's response. But if I chose to supply accompanying text talking about the fact that the women were photographed that very same day, having just become married, and threw in some of my own political feelings about what it meant, I would take exception to charges that I was being politically correct or ruining someone's otherwise unfettered vision of my photo. And if a critic wanted to throw in words like "oppression" and "rights" and "it's about time" I'd be very skeptical of someone accusing that critic of political correctness. I might think the PC-accuser had an agenda of their own, which would be to try and strip a photo of a context which another viewer legitimately saw.
    I titled the photo of my father, "Dad." I didn't have to. It is information I want the viewer to have because I want it to be part of the photo. Because it's part of the photo for me. Some would accuse me of tainting the viewer's experience of the photo, possibly even playing on the relationship to elicit more sentiment than the photo already has. That accusing would be that viewer's issue, not mine. Anything we do or say in life can be interpreted as "pushing an agenda." It could also be interpreted as simply adding color and texture. And insisting on the silence of artists and critics about politics they see in a photo is just as much pushing an agenda as anything else. I think most of it is not pushing an agenda. Most of it is just the kinds of expression and response that art ought to stimulate.
     
  64. Bergson says, somewhere in his writing: "If you close the gate you know no one will cross the road: it does not follow that you can predict who will cross when you open it."
     
  65. From Julie's OP "As Crouch notes later, "Unless something of imperishable value from the dead world of the past is held onto, the undeclared audience that we all are could get that dead world dead wrong.""
    Teenie Harris, like Steve years later with "German-American Parade", was just out taking pictures of his neighborhood without the intent of making a political statement.
    Let's say that of Steve's picture some 50 years later, a commentator like Crouch writes (as quoted by Julie in the OP) "Unless something of imperishable value from the dead world of the past is held onto, the undeclared audience that we all are could get that dead world dead wrong."
    And if that Crouch of the future in that same piece also wrote "Here's an African American woman walking down the street and no one is acting like they want to hurl insults at her, no one looks like they want to call her [this word] or [that word]. Instead, that picture speaks for itself and that part of that past world looks right to me."
    Does Julie's present remark seem uncalled for when applied to that future hypothetical Crouch: "Crouch, it seems to me is kicking both the PC police and the Roy DeCaravas of the world in the head, out of pure frustration; he's chaffing against the confines of this limiting, silencing, self-censoring, gag that prevents free expression."
    Yes, uncalled for in the hypothetical, and uncalled for today. Because Crouch was freely expressing himself. He was chaffing about his own misperception of that past world, being so distant from it, being not fully informed: he was kicking himself.
    Look at the grief Crouch has to deal with when he freely expresses himself. Then tell me again who is drowning out his words by hurling PCness at him?
     
  66. May I say I'm tired of the term "politically correct"? It's an over broad statement that is usually used by people who don't know what it's like to be offended or repressed in some way. White men use it the most, obviously. They want to continue to have the right to say whatever racist, misogynist things they like without being looked down on. If you don't like it, you're too PC.

    Having consideration for other people is a virtue. Being asked to be virtuous is not "censorship" it is "criticism". Stop whining that people don't like that you're rude to them and, instead, become a better person.
     
  67. I agree we should respect one another. Calling
    others derogatory names is wrong. The problem is
    when accusations like calling someone a racist they
    aren't to shut up their views to provide facts so we
    can understand truth. This leads to
    misunderstandings, and bad public policy which is
    often the intent of political correctness.
     
  68. Except that you don't get to dictate to a group other than your own how to take something, how to be addressed, or what they should accept. Racism and sexism are much more often called correctly than "PC". Its the oppressed vs those in power. The OPs very notion that he doesn't want to be told "how to portray women" in his photos is bizarrely lacking in empathy and historical context. If women don't like being offered up to the male gaze over and over again because it's been done to death then maybe the OP should take a hint.


    I'm not offended by racist and sexist content. I'm bored with it. I'm bored with images of passive women presenting themselves as meat. I'm tired of racist jokes being used to "shock" as if these things are speaking truth to power. This stuff has been done to death. No one is actually shocked. If you can't think of anything else to take a picture of then you're a hack. Come up with something new.
     
  69. Kyle +1
    What's wrong with simple consideration for the feelings of others?
    If I may suggest:
    Photograph others as you would like to be photographed yourself.
     

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