Does photography steal the subject's soul?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by emre, Oct 8, 2005.

  1. I usually take candid pictures, usually without asking for permission. Usually I have no problem, but once in a while I encounter a person who vehemently objects, claiming that I am stealing their soul. It happened to me recently in the Caribbean island of Bequia, when an old woman covered her face long before I had any idea of taking her picture, and waved me away. In situations like this I simply pass because I have no interest in taking pictures of people against their will, rather than because I sympathise with their beliefs. In fact, I have no idea what these people are thinking. Can someone explain?
     
  2. Those cultures that retain a belief in 'sympathetic' magic (where something that was a part of the person, like nail clippings, hair, blood or even an article of clothing) could be used to cast a spell or curse. A part of the 'victim' is essential in creating a 'voodoo doll'. The 'voodoo' doll is an 'image' of the person and it isn't a far stretch for superstitious people to view a photographic image as having similar 'power' and be afraid. I think you are correct. It is good manners (and in some situations good sense) not to take pictures of people who object.
     
  3. I forgot to mention: would a painting of a person also be taboo?
     
  4. Take two pictures, give her one back, she's still got her soul, you have your picture. : )
     
  5. SCL

    SCL

    In some cultures any image (photo, painting, drawing) may cause distress because of religious beliefs. Best if you read up on a culture you are unfamiliar with before photographing them so as to not create ill will. Your present sensitivity suggests that you will take that to heart.
     
  6. Using a digital camera does NOT steal the subject's soul. Film cameras do. dG
     
  7. The 'voodoo' doll is an 'image' of the person and it isn't a far stretch for superstitious people to view a photographic image as having similar 'power' and be afraid.
    One man's superstition is the next man's religion. Religion aside, the average 21-century American or European, despite many years of education, believes so much nonsense (old wives tales, urban legends, paranormal b.s. and other myths, fallacies and misconceptions) that third-world Voodoo believers probably deserve a little slack.
     
  8. Just think what 3rd Workd Voodoo believers would think of US after listening to a couple of minutes of Rush Limbaugh on the Radio!
     
  9. Actually, their idea that the camera can steal your soul is really no more weird then our idea that photographs can deprive the subject's intellectual property rights in her image. Heck, nowdays even building can't be photographed because they've been protected by trademarked.
     
  10. Perhaps you're seeing "tourist burnout" I know that in Mexico, I can see from the expressions on some people's faces that they are not excited about being the subject of somebody's photography, especially when that kind of stuff goes on all day to varying degrees. Often re-appearing and socializing before the photography starts or even offering a few pictures can make a HUGE difference!
     
  11. I can only speak of East Africa and it was said that in the early days many of the people had this belief. It is quite understandable to be very wary of something that you have never seen before being pointed at you by a strange ( non-indigenous ) person. I suspect a larger part of the problem came about because of the insensitive behaviour of a large number of the photographers. I say insensitive but I have in fact seen examples of downright rude and arrogant behaviour. Ultimately tourists got round the problem by proffering a few shillings to the subject. This practise became widespread and expected and a way of making some money directly out of the tourists. Just one of the downsides of tourism !
     
  12. "Can someone explain?" Yes, like all superstitions, insecurities and prejudices (ignorance,) as you suggested, you just politely get on down the road cause they're not gonna listen to you anyways. Too me, it's not "what to understand" other then what you already understand cause it seems you already have an excellent handle on what's really going on. Don't get the shot, cause polite, as you wisely exhibited, in this sort of situation, ignorance aside, is more important then not. Even the best educated among us exhibit this sort of primordial behavior in various shapes and mannerisms. All one needs to do is turn on the daily evening news to verify this point and if this sort of behavior is widely rampant in well educated civilizations, then it would reasonably be normal to see this sort of behavior in the less educated or sophisticated venues. Wishing you well with your future photographic efforts.
     
  13. Keep in mind that lots of people don't like their pictures taken for whatever reason, having nothing to do with souls. And if you ask them why, you normally won't get a cohesive well-thought out response, you'll get some mumbled meaningless answer, that's really not any better than "it'll steal my soul!"
     
  14. Yeah, people are afraid that they look ridiculous in pictures. This is usually the case if the picture is randomly taken as the motion is stopped in a way which we don't normally see by naked eye. So having a picture taken may be bad PR. :) However, a skillfully taken photo can enhance the subject. What might work is showing your work to your potential subjects and maybe they will change their mind (if they think your work is good).
     
  15. The answer to the question is, No. Photography cannot steal a subject's soul. Those who believe it can are in error. Having said that, we still have to be mindful of peoples' feelings. Who amongst us is not free of error?
     
  16. That is pure nonsence but you've got to try standing in their shoes and try to understand them. People can't change themeselves. People change through generations.
     
  17. People can't change themeselves. People change through generations. Ah! That indeed is the problem. People can't change themselves. They are victims of their upbringing and are conditioned by their environment. Few of us can escape that.
     
  18. "Using a digital camera does NOT steal the subject's soul. Film cameras do." ...not only does digital steal your soul it digitizes it too! :|
     
  19. "...People can't change themeselves..." wrong...actually, they are the ONLY ones who can change themselves. ...as far as photography stealing a person's soul....heh, yeah right...but I think someone above said the reason some people think that. The image of them is supposedly a part of them, so a little of them is taken....in this case the soul. Definitely a primitive mind's type thought. However, like you, I would not take the pic if they objected...the really good shot has already passed by anyhow, why bother!?
     
  20. wrong...actually, they are the ONLY ones who can change themselves. Nice idea!
     
  21. I didn't know that there was a soul to be stolen.
     
  22. I am stealing their soul Tell them you are just examining it to see if it's worthy of an afterlife. Just think you could become a famous Guru pockets full of money and the swooning willing girls. Anyway, where's this place you are talking about.
     
  23. About 4-5 years ago I was taking a photo of the clean up of the Notting Hill Carnival in London when a Rasta man approached me accusing me of taking his photo. I very politely informed him that I wasn't photographing him but the clean up efforts. He couldn't believe I was taking pictures of dump trucks. Despite my best efforts to keep things calm, things got ugly when he began grabbing at my camera, demanding the film. There was no way I was going to sacrifice a roll of film for him, heck I didn't even know if he was in the photo. He started getting very aggressive and there was lots of pushing and shoving. I was on the edge of throwing the first blow to avoid having to throw the second. But my girlfriend was with me so I thought better of it and we went to the nearest bar where the bouncers were nice enough to defuse the situation by not allowing him in. Bob Marley he was not. It was a long time before I got the guts up to take a candid street portrait. Just goes to show it doesn't only happen in places like the Caribbean and it can happen when the person isn't even your intended subject.
     
  24. Just wondering, is there a soul, or spirit, if you like?
     
  25. Well I don't agree with voodoo-schmoodoo stuff but when you stop and consider the power of the camera to record aspects of a persons personality there may be a grain (no pun intended) of truth. For example while shooting some street photography along Melrose Ave. in LA I watched as a tour bus pulled to the curb and out poured a bunch of Asian tourists. As I scanned the crowd looking for interesting faces to shoot I zeroed in on a pair of 20ish women talking and laughing as they stepped off the bus. I ran ahead about a block in the direction they were walking. As I watched them come up the street I knew I had a winning shot. One woman was tall, very pretty with tight designer clothing and a designer handbag. Her friend was plain and dressed rather dowdy (is this still a word I wonder?). As they approached I wondered if these two opposites were longtime friends or if they just met. So when they came up to where I was waiting I asked them if they would stand for a second for a picture. Pretty Girl was more then willing but she had to encourage Plain Girl to go along which she did after a couple seconds of thought. I took the shot unposed, thanked them, and we went out seperate ways. The resulting print is just what I would have expected: Pretty Girl standing off to the side of the frame with her chest thrust out and her designer bag in front of her and a somewhat sultry look on her face. Plain Girl in front with a more casual relaxed pose and a warm honest smile. So did I take their souls? Of course not but who these young women are came shinning through the photograph. Of course I was there so I'm not sure if others who have seen this photograph can see this. Whatever the case this is what photography (for me anyways) is all about: Not just recording a persons likeness, but capturing part of who they are which some people may consider to be a part of their soul. Just something to think about.
     
  26. I was going to write something similar to that.
     
  27. Yes, maybe Marc had the best answer: "I hope so!" Allen: Bequia is an island belonging to the state of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. Rather secluded, even in the context of Caribbean islands. I will post some pictures in due time. Ilkka & Mubeen: I am trying to look at it from their perspective. Assuming that a soul exists, how can it be captured with a camera? Am I to believe that their soul has migrated to the camera, or is it a duplication? Is the capturing result binary, or is it a matter of degree; e.g., does fine grain film capture the soul better? What if you misjudge the exposure and do not clearly record the person being captured? What if you take a picture of only a part of their body? What do they do about surveillance cameras? Even when I start from their assumptions, I can not reach their conclusion. Their position seems to be inconsistent.
     
  28. Yes, Emre, people who believe in souls *do* tend to have inconsistent positions.
     
  29. Emre, ok. I see where you are coming from. I think it's about "belief" and "consent". Because they believe that they have a soul, and that it can be stolen by capuring, entrapping, and stealing it, by photographing it, thus they will not consent.
     
  30. H.P. does that mean that people who do not believe in souls believe that they are consistent?
     
  31. I never thought of whether or not I have a soul. I have a spirit, you know, the idea of existence. but a soul is a different thing ,, maybe the character of a being. (these are my definitions). anyway I believe I am consistent in my being. but I don't believe a photo will steal my soul or spirit. I think a photo will preserve my spirit, and maybe a good photo will capture my soul, but that doesn't mean I will not still have more soul left. then of course maybe photography does steal your soul because .. say look at models.. are they souless? some would say yes. :). of course this all changes when you change your definitions.. that is semantics for you. you could say a soul and spirit are one and the same and that it is a spiritual thing that you loose when you die (loss of these at death is something that fits my previously stated definition). if you use this definition, then no, you don't steal persons soul when you photograph them. it all really depends on your definition of soul or spirit. really though it all boils down to whether you have consent or not. they say no, and you respect that, then it is all good. why they say no really doesn't make a difference. how about that for some mumbo jumbo (a word that doesn't change it's meaning much)
     
  32. another thing. the reason you cannot reach their conclusion is because you understand in your mind 'what' a camera does, and how it works. for people who beleive in magic and souls and other things like that, the idea that the relected light from them bent through glass to strike and cause chemical/physical reactions which are then recorded and processed to make an image is usually beyond their knowledge base. it is then left to you to respect that or if you feel you need, educate the subject. Ask them if you wonder that much. you may end up converting to their beliefs. BTW. I have posted a link to another system of beliefs. http://www.venganza.org/
     
  33. Bryon wrote - "...you may end up converting to their beliefs...", I really like that line.
     
  34. I thought this is the virture of an artist: to recognise a glimpse of the soul, to sense the divine spark in the mechanical stream of life. But believing the camera is able to 'catch' the soul documents that people dont think very noble about their own soul or whatever they may call soul. It is intellectual, religious dogma and the vital that tries to shape the immortal in its own way and as a consequence of this, makes it disposable to outer forces, be it as harmless as a camera or other more powerful forces.
     
  35. Bernd - Its all cultural. You "believe" that "the virture of an artist: to recognise a glimpse of the soul, to sense the divine spark in the mechanical stream of life", yet artists in different cultures believe differently and thus were/are motivated differently.
     
  36. Yes and no, they gave it different names and faces, but the driving force inside was always heading toward the same question- who am I? -I as an individual, or I as someone who identifies with a broader reality.
     
  37. FSM? what is 'the immortal',, the soul? if so may I boil your sentence down to, 'the soul may be affected by outer forces, however small, even cameras, because of intellectual and religious dogma and the vital'?, that last sentence is very hard to follow, what is 'the vital'. you need (I think) to define what your definitions are so that we (or at least I) can understand your statement, or else it will remain an excellent display of profoundly vague logorrheic semantics. (dat dar is my college edumakashun) I think a good artist should have the viture of capturing and portreying a part of a soul/spirit/moment in time that is interesting, for others to veiw, not just have the ability to glimpse it. Many people I feel can glimpse this, it is a part of recognizing art,, MAYBE.
     
  38. also your statement "But believing the camera is able to 'catch' the soul documents that people dont think very noble about their own soul or whatever they may call soul"... do you beleive your soul stays with you after death, too? and hence 'the immortal'?. there are many cultures that believe there soul can be taken. what religion do you practice?
     
  39. Byron, I do believe that the soul as an aspect of the Immortal (God) is beyond the form that it has taken here on earth. It is our mind and vital life nature that tries to define what our soul is. When someone believes that the soul can be caught by a camera, then it shows that this person doesnt have a lot of confidence into the power of the soul. Why? Because this person has fixed his/her ideas about the soul to a very narrow view of reality. In consequence, for this person, the soul becomes vulnerable to outside forces (even a camera). I hope this clarifies the above.
     
  40. Of course a photograph doesn't steal a person's soul...if such a thing even exists. It's just a matter of cultural perspective. "We" tend to look down at such primitive beliefs. But consider for a moment if a truly intelligent being from another planet visited us and first landed in a "modern" US city. They would observe men who scrape the hair off their faces. Men and women who adorn their bodies permanently with "art" (tattoos) of everything from skulls, to names to tribal images. Men and women who poke holes in various parts of their bodies to adorn themselves with shiny bits of metal and rock. Women wearing shoes with four inch heals and most women who "paint" their faces. I think all of mankind still has one foot in the cave, cautiously peering around the stone wall.....
     
  41. does poloroid steal your soul instantly? what about 1 hour photo labs or digital?
     
  42. There's a nice scene in that otherwise banal film "Crocodile Dundee" where the American journalist is trying to take a photo of an Australian aborigine and he says: "You can't take my picture!"
    She replies: "Oh, do you believe the photo will steal your soul?"
    And he responds: "No, you still got the lens cap on!"
     
  43. Emre: You originally wrote - "...I have no idea what these people are thinking..." I think it may be that they "feel" the act of photographing them is an intent of (derision) "ridiculing" them and their circumstances. I remember a few years ago, I was on holiday in Mombasa, at the Coast of Kenya, and I was trying to take a shot of a man on the street with a hand-card. He said, no photos please. I asked him why, he said "if they are to laugh at then no, but if the photos are not for laughing at then you can". If I were to walk over towards you (and we are total strangers), and then I said do you mind if I take your photo?, how would "you" react?
     
  44. Mubeen - links in pretty closely to what I said.
     
  45. Ken poses an excellent question about the speed at which a soul can be stolen. This would make excellent material for right wing Christian nutcases. But this I realize, is one reason why Polaroid cameras tend to be so much larger than other normal cameras. They have to have "soul capacity" in much larger volume. It also explains why they cant be found so cheaply in thrift stores and why they stop working far more quicker then other cameras. They are clogged up.
     
  46. ...hence using a Minox sub-mini permits the theft of only very small fractions of soul and is thus more theologically friendly.
     
  47. This thread has become soul-less.
     
  48. An interesting aside from the concept of a camera stealing someone's soul is the notion of the evil eye. This, too, persists in a number of cultures and probably many of the same cultures where there are fears of photographs. The notion of the evil eye has roots in the misonception that a person's vision originates from the eye. Rather than light entering the eye, the eye emits some mysterious force on the object being viewed. The so called evil eye is s a diseased or malformed eye that may cause bad fortune on whomever the person with such an eye looks at. It is kind of amusing to me, and I think somewhat paradoxical, that people in these cultures might view the physics of a camera in just the opposite way from their eyes. That is, a camera captures something from the person being photographed rather than emitting the mysterious force ascribe to vision. I expect that this has a lot to do with the fact that the result of having a picture taken is a concrete representation of a person's likeness whereas, there is no similar concrete representation when a person looks at someone else. But then again, maybe they are consistent and perhaps their fear is not that something is being taken away from them, but that the camera is emitting some noxious or offensive force upon them.
     
  49. It's probably simpler then all that in that someone told them to think that way and it's been that way ever since. Life's usually simpler then folks allow it to be cause making things complicated gives them purpose.
     
  50. This subject pops up form time to time. This time I wanted to contribute an answer / though and see what sticks... As with terminology it is not always easy to remember that in Caribbean culture the concept of soul can be quite different from the one coming form christian western background. (As some times you can read suggestions how to prove that they are wrong by taking a photo: "here you see it did not go away" or "now as I have it I'll take few more photos"). Thus forcing that sort of belief in to more familiar framework does not neccessarily exlain much. (Well, maybe this did not explain it either but hpefully the next thought). Maybe the soul stealing superstitions build up in a similar that we some times relate to photos in extreme cases. For example being afraid that a child molester takes a photo of a child in school concert: him having the photo does not actually hurt the subject but the thought is still very unpleasant. (Naturally it can be reassoned that the photo can lead to something more serious later on, which I don't deny at all, but the first emotional response is not connected to that logic). Perhaps there wold be a better and less disturbing example: if my co worker would take a photo of me and use it as a darts target I would not be too happy. If I would not know he does so it would not hurt me at all. Hearing whats going on with my photo and darts would make me feel very uneasy even though its not at least physical threat to me (working with him would propably not be a bliss after that though). So, I'm not saying these people are afraid that you would use their photos to play darts, but thats an example on how in western cultures we (or maybe just I?) sometimes feel that a photo can give some sort of control over a person, even when not publicized.
     
  51. Vesa, i appreciate your comments. It occurs to me that there may be similar ideas in western, Judeo- Christian beliefs. One only has two look at the second commandment: "You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or earth beneath or in the water under the earth...." Yes I have taken this slightly out of context. Obviously, the point is that we should not worship these various likenesses. On the other hand, how we regard the likenesses that we create and what we do with them is important or even, perhaps, sacred and I do not think that is unreasonable for a person to be concerned about how an image of themselves is regarded and what is later done with that image. Presently, we hear a lot about privacy. On the one hand, proper legal advice suggests obtaining a signed release when taking a picture of someone if we wish to use that image in various ways seemingly dictating that we respect their privacy. However, we also have a first ammendment which seems to allow the press, the paparozzi or who knows who else to photograph anything that they may want regardless of how that image may be later used or abused. I do not think that it is appropriate to reduce the beliefs of someone in non western culture to mear superstition. Pesonally, I may not believe that someone is stealing my soul if they take my picture, but I can certainly understand that I might not want a perfect stranger from some other culture to take my picture simply because I am a private person and I wish my privacy preserved. And as I think about it, I am not so sure that my soul and my privacy are not very closley related to each other. Doesn't privacy involve protecting something that is deeply personal and intended only for our own personal benefit and not for the benefit of someone else? Doesn't a person's soul represent something that is no less private than anything else that we may consider private? I realize that the motive of the photographer is important here, but who is to say just what we take away from a person when we take their picture and display to others?
     
  52. I suppose any discussion involving the concept of a soul must gravitate towards religion and belief systems. My own view is that, irrespective of matters of reason and logic, the 'facts' of the matter or whether or not something is 'true' by consensus of opinion of one or more particular groups, a 'belief' that something is true can have a powerful effect on any individual who subscribes to that belief. In my own case, I suscribe to the view that taking regular doses of Vitamin C keeps me free of colds and flu, despite the fact that many scientific reports tend to indicate there's no evidence to support this. I'm quite happy to be in error in this respect because my belief in Vitamin C seems to work. I don't care too much whether it's a bio-chemical process stimulated by the intake of ascorbic acid that's keeping me free of colds, or a psycho-biological process resulting from a belief (the placebo effect). In aboriginal culture in Australia there's a ritual of 'bone-pointing' whereby a kangaroo bone is pointed at an enemy and can 'apparently' result in the death of the recipient through a process of gradual disintegration. There appear to be recorded incidents of this process occurring, defying all medical explanations. On the other hand, there are skeptics and the truth of the matter is always difficult to reach. People always like to elaborate and embellish matters for dramatic effect. My first confrontation with this belief that a photograph can 'steal one's soul' (or belief to that effect, however it may be described) was as a young man visiting Turkey. I was in Istanbul, photographing everything because it was different. On one occasion, I saw an old man tottering down a steep, narrow lane carrying an enormous load of furniture. I marvelled at how he could carry all that. I thought to myself, 'I'll wait until he gets a bit closer then I'll jump out in front of him and take a shot". I did. Boy! Was he angry! He came charging after me with this heavy load on his back. I quickly got out of his way and disappeared down another alley. I was certainly surprised, a bit ashamed of myself for antagonising one of the locals, but arrogant enough to dismiss the old man's concerns as pure foolishness. A bit insensitive of me, but that's youth I guess.
     
  53. I guess nobody, in real terms, wants to be thought of as an anomaly worthy of being photographed.
     
  54. "I have no idea what these people are thinking. Can someone explain?" Just curious: How many here enjoy having their images taken by strangers? I surely don't. That explains it.
     
  55. "....stealing the subject's(one's) soul" Translation: Violating the "sublects"(one's) boundries.
     
  56. ...I guess nobody, in real terms, wants to be thought of as an anomaly worthy of being photographed."..... I don't understand that comment at all, Thomas. Nobody? People in the West are continually striving to be different, to be innovative, unusual, noteworthy. Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!
     
  57. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    I guess nobody, in real terms, wants to be thought of as an anomaly worthy of being photographed.
    Why would a person have to be an anomaly to be worth photographing?
     
  58. "People in the West are continually striving to be different, to be innovative, unusual, noteworthy. Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!" We were originally talking about the third world here, not Hollywood. That aside, who among us want to be known as a "freak/anomaly," worthy of being photographed as such? Anomaly: (Dictionary.com) "One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify:" ---------------------------- Mike. "Why would a person have to be an anomaly to be worth photographing?" Gee Mike, I haven't a clue. Have we forgotten Lisette Model http://www.photo-seminars.com/Fame/lisettemodel.htm and Diane Arbus's efforts so soon? http://photography.about.com/library/weekly/aa110600a.htm There are those who put themselves out there intentionally to be noticed (photographed) and there's those who don't wish to be noticed. And you'll find the answer to your question quite easily in the middle.
     
  59. Firstly, there is no soul, there is only life and death, photography steals nothing. People who believe otherwise are mistaken and that is their problem not mine. Taking photos of people without consent will always make for problems whatever or wherever. People who have beleif in the soul are simply mistaken. I once told a psychologist neighbour friend that I had no soul, despite his intelligence he was visibly shaken, he is daft.
     
  60. "Firstly, there is no soul, there is only life and death, photography steals nothing. People who believe otherwise are mistaken and that is their problem not mine." ..... this is a truely inspiring comment. Amazingly creative and deep. Thanks so much for sharing your brilliant insights.
     
  61. I understand your sarcasm, however I did answer the question accurately, and with a degree of creativity and insight. If 88% of Americans beleive in God and only 12% in Darwin, then it is no wonder that G.W. Bush can Justify his greed for oil because 'God told him to do it'. He killed 300,000 'souls' for oil. The facts are simple and I believe in stating what I believe. I would also like to add that I love to take photos of people and if they require me to pay them I will, if they complain their soul is being taken I will not take a shot. Of course it makes no difference, because there is no soul, but if people must believe in all that, let them. They have no wish to understand the camera, then let them remain ignorant. Cheers.
     
  62. "Of course it makes no difference, because there is no soul,..." And your proof of this point is? "...photography steals nothing." So nobody has been sued, successfully, many, many times, for invading a person's privacy? Could privacy be the "soul" that folks are worried about having stolen?
     
  63. Privacy is not a soul, Thomas. I was merely trying to simplify the meaning of the word soul, and since I believe in no such thing I made my position clear. However privacy is of course a real subject which people as you rightly pointed out, often disregard. Cheers.
     
  64. Since this is the philosophy forum, kindly tolerate: I cant help myself but have to say that people honestly stating there is only life and death must be caught in utter stupidity. This is not a religious question. Even a pure materialist has to agree that life and death can not be experienced as such without a third party being involved. Otherwise, life would forget about itself in its own existance and death would not have its name.
     
  65. In the context of this thread, could we take "soul" to mean 'dignity' or 'respect'? Or shall we just percieve the old woman to be a dumb-brute because of her "primitive" beliefs? Especially because she is being reactive rather than pro-active?
     
  66. I tolerate your views of course as you tolerate mine. Does Bush tolerate? Do you vote for that idiot? Do you seriously believe that there is anything else responsible for depressing a shutter realse other than your neurons? There is quite simply no soul, it is fact. Soul is merely a word, as is God in all it's many terrible guises. ''Caught in utter stupidity'' Not me pal, sorry. ''Even a pure materialist has to agree''.... with what? with you? ''Third party''....? are you kidding? there is me, my camera, and yes, my lens! Me is one party, the whole shebang, the gestalt, call it what you like, I am a human, same as you pal! Perhaps if Emre asked the proverbial 'old lady of the village' what she thought her soul was we'd know what she thought, and? Cheers.
     
  67. I think the wise old lady of the village should explain that one, it is not possible to know what she considers her soul to be otherwise, all else seems speculative and disrespectful to said old lady.
     
  68. ''would a painting also be taboo?'' Well I guess painting has been around since we lived in caves so maybe not, but you never know. Perhaps if your painting was not to the subjects liking you would receive a swift blow to the head, or perhaps conversely if you made the subject very happy with your painting you could end up married to the tribe. I guess using a stealthy rangefinder might help, then work from the print with the paints, offer your work and see what they say....
     
  69. Ben, maybe you like to cool down a bit now, wont you? Why this fixation on Bush? You said: "Soul is merely a word". Yet it is a word, but it is quite a haunting one, isn't it? Even if it doesn't exist, as you said, then let us cheer the fellow who put this rumour into the world, for I would like to thank him a millon times to take away that intense boredom that conventional, wordly wisdom is pervading.
     
  70. Loved that one! but I disagree and I 'believe' that digital cameras are the work of Satan and most likely will lead your 'soul' to eternal damnation, if not worse.....digital backs are even worse.... Only with the purity of film does the soul survive....
     
  71. Bernd, I'm cool. I have no fixations, however I believe that words have been used to keep people in power for far too long. Peace.
     
  72. "In the context of this thread, could we take "soul" to mean 'dignity' or 'respect'?" .. that is a very good definition and quite more meaningful than it appears on first sight. But again the question was concerning the believ that the soul as an entity is harmed by a photograph.
     
  73. And i sold my soul to the company store. That's where most end up if they are lucky...otherwise they starve to death...one every few seconds so i'm led to believe. Of course there's always the lucky.
     
  74. Now without soul?
     
  75. I wrote: "Could privacy be the "soul" that folks are worried about having stolen?" --------------------------------- Ben wrote: "Privacy is not a soul, Thomas. I was merely trying to simplify the meaning of the word soul, and since I believe in no such thing I made my position clear." A-N-A-L-O-G-Y:) Similarity in some respects between things that are otherwise dissimilar. ----------------------- Ben? Should I consider you in the same light as you consider those who believe being as you have no proof and it's your belief? Would that be nice? You also made it clear that "The facts are simple and I believe in stating what I believe." See how that works:) Your belief system is no more valid then any other as it's "...what I BELIEVE." Either which way, the person's privacy is being invaded and it seems that some, rightfully, don't like it. Seems that it's the photographers who are the ones doing the stumbling around here. My images are sans people for a reason and this unwillingness to violate people's space is the reason. If a person is going to be the subject of a image, then their permission should be given, prior to the image being captured. But that's only "my opinion." I'll let you hash out the morals of newsworthy photography.
     
  76. Sans permission, if it's not yours, then you're stealing. I think there's an answer somewhere in that comment. A thought to ponder: In some folks zeal to "get the money shot" (paparazzi?) a certain insensitivity has generally risen it's ugly specter and this uglyness of insensitivity has spread to all forms of societal behavior, including getting the shot when the person in question doesn't feel comfortable with this action. Emre, I'm not including you in my above as clearly in your statement you stated that you "...have no interest in taking pictures of people against their will,..." ----------------------------- Maybe a little bit of retaliation is in order on the part of the invaded and we'll see how well the photographer likes the consequenses of their uninvited action:) Hmmmmmmm! As an example of the victim's thought process: Take my pic without my permission and I get free reign to beat the living stuffings out of the photographer, with impunity. Would that help teach the photographers to respect the individual's non-existant soul? "Can someone explain?" I think, in real terms, it's considered a form of personal space invasion and we need to rely more on our eyes (camera) and brain (storage/film) to make and keep some of our memories.
     
  77. Interesting and timely subject for me. I just returned from shooting in Guatemala. I spoke with a young woman from Costa Rica last week. She said that in some of these countries the people believe what you've said, about "stealing their soul". After our discussion I was working on this print. One of our friends took along a Polaroid camera to the medical clinics and photographed whomever wanted, then gave them the image. It was great fun seeing the children enjoy that. I'm sure most of them had never seen a picture of themselves. Mostly they were delighted. But I snapped a picture of these women looking at their own images and their expressions really made me wonder what they were thinking. You know how it is when you've listened to someone's voice, maybe on the radio, and pictured them in your mind? Then you see them and haven't you often been surprised? I wondered what these women thought when they saw their own photographs. My husband has a way of always making me feel really beautiful when I'm with him. I used to hate seeing images of me. Now I just don't believe what I see in them, because he has made me know that I *actually am* a beautiful woman. ;o) But I wondered if seeing their images and comparing them to how they felt, or comparing them to other women's images...well, if that somehow didn't steal something from them? It made me wonder about the vanity of "appearances". Of course, they each have their own beauty as we all do. Learning to find and appreciate that can take time, can't it? Just thinking about the complexities of who we are?
     
  78. Oops...forgot the picture.
     
  79. Well, this is rather refreshing, to be able to have a vigorous debate which includes contentious subjects such as religion. On the Luminous Landscape, conversation there strives to be as civil as a group of photographers around a dinner table who know nothing about anything except photography. Concepts such as the 'soul' and 'God' are really endlessly fascinating because there's not a scrap of solid evidence that they exist, yet millions of people appear to believe they do exist. This is surely a recipe for disaster in the affairs of humanity when people act and even stake their lives on the reality of such chimera. On the other hand, I have to admit that my own fascination with photography has been boosted by the digital darkroom as a result of the facility of programs like Photoshop to manipulate 'reality'. People have a tendency to believe what they see. Photoshop can demonstrate that what you see is an illusion, which strikes a chord within me. The old-fashioned notion that the camera never lies is proved to be total bunkum. In any case, long before the digital era, some photographers used 'trick' processes to demonstrate there really are fairies at the bottom of the garden. The 'stealing the soul' and 'invasion of privacy' issue, whichever way you want to look at it, surely results from the fact that we all tend to develop a persona which we present to the world; a type of mask or protective coating or shield, which we hide behind. Candid shots can be the most infuriating (for the subject) because the shields are often down. People do not want to be caught picking their nose, for example, unless they are Holywood actors, of course. There are always exceptions.
     
  80. Well said Raymond, I didn't want to spell it out so thanks for doing that. Thomas, please understand one thing only: there is no soul, that is my opinion, and I am entitled to that. Do not personalize this any further. Thankyou. I know that getting involved in these debates is useless since 88% of American users here beieve in God, and the soul, how sad. To answer Emre's question, those people afraid of a camera stealing their soul are actually just totally ignorant, that is what they are thinking, and I think you know that too. Bye.
     
  81. "Thomas, please understand one thing only: there is no soul, that is my opinion, and I am entitled to that. Do not personalize this any further. Thankyou. I know that getting involved in these debates is useless since 88% of American users here beieve in God, and the soul, how sad." Ben. That's a thoughtful request as you continue to personalize it by calling belivers, "sad" or "daft." My photography reflects both my belief in a soul and a higher being, "God." These beliefs steer my photographic vision in a way that a secularist or Progressive-Humanist might never be able to understand. Should I eliminate this inspiration from my photography and my philosophical conversation to satisfy another for their convenience? I don't think that's right of anybody to ask just as I would never make this request of you nor would I think of calling your thought process either "daft" or "sad." There was no personalization as you made a statement and I only asked you to back it up. Seems fair enough. You're welcome to believe folks are daft or sad but don't act surprised if these personalized comments to the negative, engender a reasonable response for as believers, we're neither "daft" nor "sad." It's called respect which is what this thread is about, respecting a person's request, "not" to be photographed, for what ever reason and this seems to be a hard concept for some folks to wrap their think around. If a person says "No!", you respect their privacy. You don't go about denigrating them by calling them names and continue "taking" picture or getting "captures." Think about the terms used for photography, maybe there's a bit of truth to the comment as in "taking" the shot without permission, it's clearly an invasionary behavior as we all have the right to our unguarded moments. But there are some who think this invasionary behavior is fair game when it's clearly unappreciated. Hence the need to sneek around while acting out this need to thieve an image. If it was a legitimate form, then there would be no threat to the person, should they be discovered acting out this "Peeping Tom" behavior. When the act of being discovered might cause one to "fear" for their safety, then should give one a clue as to the violation they're perpetrating. Not very hard to understand. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4156233 http://www.masters-of-photography.com/E/evans/evans_subway2.html I would hope folks would think about these things and the unintended or intended consequenses, photographically speaking, a bit more then making it just about themselves, (egocentricity,) and what it is that they want the next time they go out to make "people" photographs.
     
  82. I am entitled to believe that there is no soul, prove me wrong.
     
  83. Ben, because 'you' do not "believe" in the existence of a soul, should that belief allow you to be insensitive towards those who do believe in a soul? As for the proof, neither position can be proved or disproved, that's why both propositions rely on faith, and that is what a belief is. So I suppose this thread has a 'soul' of it's own.
     
  84. Main Entry: soul Pronunciation: 'sOl Function: noun Etymology: Middle English soule, from Old English sAwol; akin to Old High German sEula soul 1 : the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life 2 a : the spiritual principle embodied in human beings, all rational and spiritual beings, or the universe b capitalized, Christian Science : GOD 1b 3 : a person's total self 4 a : an active or essential part b : a moving spirit : LEADER 5 a : the moral and emotional nature of human beings b : the quality that arouses emotion and sentiment c : spiritual or moral force : FERVOR 6 : PERSON 7 : EXEMPLIFICATION, PERSONIFICATION 8 a : a strong positive feeling (as of intense sensitivity and emotional fervor) conveyed especially by black American performers b : NEGRITUDE c : SOUL MUSIC d : SOUL FOOD e : SOUL BROTHER
     
  85. the above is ... from merriam-webster online
     
  86. It seems useless to explain this simple matter to people who are in themselves unable to change, to see the fallacy they create. Throw your dictionaries and bibles at each other, burn a nations oil and then tell me there is a soul. American definitions of olde Englishe words are not my interest. I like photography, not dictionaries. Did Steve Mc Curry steal the soul of the Afghan girl? No, but it made him famous, and it gave her an iris identification test some years later.
     
  87. "I am entitled to believe that there is no soul, prove me wrong." And so are those who see the light of day different then you and we'll let you reciprocate in kind. Wishing you well with your "beliefs" and your photographic experiences and the respecting of one's privacy in regard to photographically stealing their soul.
     
  88. This may be a bit off the line of the question, but I generaly believe that messing with the subject is a no no. We may not steal the soul but we may have a resposibility to capture the real moment. I think many times we rig the picture to our view. ergo we recreate the soul in our oun image. Not so much thief as remakeing the soul in our oun image.
     
  89. ..."I am entitled to believe that there is no soul, prove me wrong."... Ben, Although I can sympathise with the atheistic leanings of a kindred spirit, you must be careful not to fall into the same trap as some religious folk, ie. asserting the truth of matters that cannot possibly be known. The atheist is sometimes described as a fool because he/she cannot possibly 'know' that an entity (such as a soul) does not exist. This is a vast universe. I feel uncomfortable with the view that atheism is a belief system, so I therefore make a distinction between 'not believing' and 'and believing it is not so'. I do not believe that 'something' is true if I think the evidence is not sufficient to support it, but I do not therefore, as a consequence of the lack of sound evidence, believe it is not true. To put it another way, I prefer my beliefs (whatever they are) to be based on evidence, not lack of it. Ramiro's short list of definitions gives a clue as to the nature of the problem. Words like 'soul' are simply not scientific words. They are metaphors for something nebulous. They are so broad and imprecise you could have almost as many definitions as there are people. Take my use of the word 'spirit' in my first sentence, ..'atheistic leanings of a kindred spirit'.. Is that an oxymoron? I think so. But you understand what I mean, don't you.
     
  90. I think that we should stop beating up on Ben and simply all agree that he does not have a soul. But, lets give him some credit. At least he is not a true nihilist. He does acknowledge similarly intangible concepts such as privacy and upon looking at his long list of contributions to the various forums, would seem to assert notions of aesthetics in photography, also similarly intangible. And, even if it has nothing to do with photography, he seems quite passionate about the president and the war in Iraq- perhaps proving that he does, in fact have a soul after all. But, I am waiting for a true nihilist to enter the discussion. That is, someone who not only denies the existence of a soul, but goes on to deny the existence of privacy or any moral or ethical standards that pertain to photography. No vulgarity, no obscenity, no pornography. Someone who also would claim that aesthetics do not exist, but are simply imaginary notions in the eye of the beholder. Nothing ugly, nothing plain or boring or uninteresting. And likewise, nothing of beauty and certainly absent a soul or spirit, nothing inspring. Nothing. After all, in the same way that there is only life and death as Ben says, such a nihilist would consider a photograph only a piece of paper with silver or pigment on its surface, nothing more, nothing less. And if someone were to say that a photograph is something to fear or something to value or is beautiful or ugly or offensive in some way, they are just as daft as if they believed in a soul. If such a nihilist is out there, please, stand up and let us hear what you have to say. If not, then maybe, we can agree that we are all a little irrational in our beliefs and not be so arrogant to insult someone whose beliefs are different.
     
  91. Agnosticism anyone ?
     
  92. "After all, in the same way that there is only life and death as Ben says, such a nihilist would consider a photograph only a piece of paper with silver or pigment on its surface, nothing more, nothing less." Sensing the bias in your comments ("... as Ben says",...) only if you call off the moderator and the expectation of intellectual maturity to prevail can such an open discussion, as you propose, be forth coming. It seems that the point of the thread, "In fact, I have no idea what these people are thinking. Can someone explain?"; the respecting of one's beliefs has been lost. Has anyone taken the time to talk to the folks who hold these feelings of having their "soul" stolen and why they think the way they do? It seems at this point, their feelings on the matter are not being considered cause some consider them "daft." Arrogance? I'm sure if folks took the time to ask and understand, both parties would be able to move forward in a positive manner. But sans taking the "victim's" feelings into consideration, you'll only have ignorance on the part of the photographer and and rightfully, an uncooperative subject matter. What a concept, considering others, other then yourself.
     
  93. Ok Thomas, just for you here is an example of capacity for emapthic and respectful thought towards the photographic subject. I ask my step-father to pose for me so I can try out my new Rolleicord 5, he starts an anti German spiel about the fancy writing on the front of my camera, muttering Zeiss Shzcmeisssss etc... I am shocked. I use the situation to diffuse his tense feeling by siding with him tempoarirly. He smiles, I get the shot.... So I did not steal his soul but I stole his smile, since it was otherwise not to be forthcoming! I have asked to photograph the local people here in Ireland, they are very religious and old fashioned. I managed to grab a few shots because I smiled and was polite, that was enough for them, and for me. However, when photographing people of forgotten tribes in forests deep in the Amazon, I would (love to) be more careful not to steal their souls, since that is their belief system. Thomas, I may respect a people greatly but I still retain the right to use the term 'daft', considering it to be of an affectionate nature anyway. My pet dog looks daft but he is adorable, since you love your dictionary logic. My girlfriend looks daft but she is beautiful. Oh and by the way, when considering others and one's self, consider this: the correct spelling is 'than'. John Andrews, I agree with you about messing with the subject. I feel that Steve Mc Curry and many National Geographic photographers have done that. In one case the lost 'soul' of a dead elephant was laid bare when a photographer posed native African hunters with a trophy tusk, their spiritual reward for living with nature. Unfortunately for the photographer and National Geo. one very clever reader sent a letter in pointing out rightly that the elephant tusk was indeed not a trophy or fair reward, and that the photo was a hoax. Proof being the museum's serial number stamped on the tusk..... Raymond Robertson, I understand and agree with you. Einstein was not a fool, nor is/was? Bobby Fischer, yet they both believed in God....I totaly agree that there is much metaphor and that can often seem nebulous. Yep, I understand your oxymoron. I think it is a very good example too. Thanks John Bond, I understand some of our irrational beliefs....
     
  94. 1. Mad; crazy. 2. Foolish; stupid. 3. Scots. Frolicsome. Yes, considering either of the first two categories of general usage is not always a way to endear one and show respect towards another's feelings, one might consider the meaning before the usage. I'm sure your girlfriend won't mind you publically calling her daft. Have you shown her this missive of your's where you call her both beautiful yet looking (stupid) daft? I submit, one should consider the consequences of this sort of written behavior:) "Oh and by the way, when considering others and one's self, consider this: the correct spelling is 'than'." I love it when someone goes anal on me for the purpose of a public dig as I find it to be a backhanded compliment in that the only thing they can write in frustration, glaringly highlighting their inner thoughts in the process, is a usage correction. Just for the record, the spelling of "then" was correct, it was the usage which was in error:) Thanks for the ironic laughLOL
     
  95. I suppose the Nihilist is 'as' entitled to his/her views as much as anyone else is. We take refuge in the "isms" that we feel comforted by, yet we are all the same even after having enlisted the support of our respective "ism".
     
  96. What if "they" are right and photography does steal the subject's soul? 20 odd years ago whilst backpacking overland to Tibet, I travelled with a couple who had a camera with a lens that enabled them to take photographs of subjects who were positioned at right angles to the direction that the lens was pointing in. One of the two would "pose" for a picture in a position that enabled the photographer to take a "sensitive" photo of onlookers, who were none the wiser (or so the couple thought) that they in fact were the subjects of the picture. I am sure that they did get some fantastic pictures but I couldnt help feeling distinctly uneasy that this was stealing and disrespectful. I have never forgotten this, nor the look I got when I caught the eye of one such "unsuspecting" onlooker. Coincidently, I have just written a poem for a workshop about this incident, in which I try to write from the perspective of the subject and try to explore why they feel the way they do... Blue poppies of Tibet You thought I had not noticed: Your quick angles and mirrors, Deceitful accomplices of the shutter, Snatched at my soul Greedily engorging Keepsakes of your superiority. I see through your lens, flash pheasant: Clucking at your ingenuity, You crow about sensitivity Oblivious to my spirit Flapping, like a bewildered prayer flag, On this hollow leather bound plateau I gaze reproachfully from your paper prison: Beyond the mourning sky The bearded vulture melts, famished, Into the mountain glaciers As blue poppies on the higher plain Are trampled into the dust
     
  97. "What if "they" are right and photography does steal the subject's soul?" You can be sure that they won't do the right thing and release that what doesn't belong to them. Nice poem and observations.
     
  98. ..."What if "they" are right and photography does steal the subject's soul?".... Well, Nicola, in that case you might have left a trail of dying, dead or zombie-like creatures on your travels in the East. If we use the first definition of 'soul' on Ramiro's list, (ie. the immaterial essence, animating principle, or actuating cause of an individual life) then I'm afraid you are in deep trouble. I don't see how anyone can continue to live if his/her animating principle and actuating cause of life has been stolen. But you seem such a nice, sensitive person, I don't want you to worry too much about this. I have photographed Tibetan monks in Nepal who seemed to be thrilled to bits to have their photo taken.
     
  99. Thomas, an interesting point - if one believes, or accepts, that a photograph could capture the soul, or part of it (through a process which may or may not be consensual) , can it be released by destroying the image or is the soul lost or changed forever? Raymond, as someone who seems to subscribe to the deterministic view of the world, what evidence do you have that it is not possible to live without a soul or part of it? I have come across some rather soulless people from time to time and I certainly look with admiration at people who survive in spite seemingly irreparable damage to their animating principle/actuating cause of life, not least their environment - and that was one of the points I was trying to make in the poem. I am touched by your final paragraph and I will heed your wise advice not to worry about all this soul stealing stuff too much.
     
  100. ..."Raymond, as someone who seems to subscribe to the deterministic view of the world, what evidence do you have that it is not possible to live without a soul or part of it?".... None whatsoever, Nicola. Relax! I was just trying to be humorous.
     
  101. John Bond wrote:- ..."But, I am waiting for a true nihilist to enter the discussion. That is, someone who not only denies the existence of a soul, but goes on to deny the existence of privacy or any moral or ethical standards that pertain to photography."... There seems to be a fundamental flaw in Nihilism which presents an insurmountable difficulty. If there are no moral or ethical standards, no absolute truths etc., then there are also no philosophical tenets such as Nihilism (that are true). However, I don't have the same difficulty with the view that nothing exists outside of the mind or imagination. A photograph consists of a bunch of chemicals and inkjet dots. It has no meaning other than what we (I, you, anyone, any creature) confer upon it. I recall a conversation I had years ago with an American hippie, a temporary companion whilst travelling through India. He started off with the proposition that nothing exists outside the mind, a novel idea for me at the time. After a bit of resistance and argumentation on my part, he conceded that 'matter' as a bunch of atoms and molecules does exist independently of the mind and that it's just our interpretation of the material shapes and forms we perceive that exists only in the mind. Now that seems to me a rather complicated way of stating the obvious. An interpretation of a photograph as just a bunch of chemicals is an interpretation that exists in the mind. An atom doesn't know that it's an atom. A statement that nothing exists outside the mind could be true.
     
  102. first. the original question was not 'does a soul exist'. the question asked what the people who thought that photos steal their soul think. this take in at least one assumptions; that a soul exists. whether or not it does in reality makes NO difference, because the subject of the question beleives in the soul. Every one knows that many people have plain beliefs. nothing crazy nothing complicated. they just believe. so if they think that photography will steal the soul then that is what they think, and if you disagree, or try to empathize, you are the ignorant one if you cannot see their point of view. you are then left with two choices if they say no: first take the picture, and second, don't. if you are the kind to say "OH, look at the ignorant anomaly! I want to take the picture, I will do so anyway because they are dumb and don't know better", and you take the picture,, whatever your reasons; you are then the ignorant problem that makes this world a pain to live in. you lack respect. somebody should take your picture. if you say " Ok, I will not take the picture, they have their beliefs." then you made the decision to respect their wishes.. whether you believe in the reasoning or not... again maybe somebody should take your picture. NOW. since the debate on whether a soul 'exists' or not had arisen. I feel I MUST take part... like good dancing or a great party.. you just gotta have fun. it is a spiritual experience :) To simply state that a soul doesn't exist is the utmost in ignorance. you cannot prove that a spiritual soul exists any more than you can prove that it doesn't. Most science for that matter has not been 'proved'. but before you even start to debate what a soul is and whether it exists you first have to define it. you simply can't say 'as soul doesn't exist', without defining what you mean by soul, or else it is like saying 'it doesn't exist'... yea sure sounds good, you can't be wrong.. but you also can't be right. For the sake of argument/debate lets take the definition offered from dictionary.com  soul (s l) n. 1. The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity. With this definition I would say no. a camera doesn?t steal the soul, or else the camera would kill. One could argue that the camera does however capture an essence of this. 2. The spiritual nature of humans, regarded as immortal, separable from the body at death, and susceptible to happiness or misery in a future state. With this definition? same as above I would also say not I don?t think the camera steals the soul. Because.. it is inseparable. As argued above this is a noble belief in the soul. Some cultures believe this essence is separable from the body even in life. These people can probably view the camera as a tool of implementation of this belief. 3. The disembodied spirit of a dead human. Well only dead people have this so the camera probably cannot capture this. Really this definition seems to be an extension of the previous. 4. A human: ?the homes of some nine hundred souls? (Garrison Keillor). Who knows? Can a camera capture a soul? If you make on big enough I think it can. 5. The central or integral part; the vital core: ?It saddens me that this network... may lose its soul, which is after all the quest for news? (Marvin Kalb). I would interpret this statement as the character of being, being compared to a christian soul. In lying you commit a sin, and this damns you to hell. In essence you loose your soul to the devil?.. I feel a camera can be a tool in implementing this loss but not the capturing device. Like a PI taking pictures of an unfaithful spouse. but you could bring up the tree in the woods argument with this. If a spouse cheats but doesn?t get caught is it cheating? 6. A person considered as the perfect embodiment of an intangible quality; a personification: I am the very soul of discretion. The character of a being, is my interpretation. This is a self-defined character and in my view cannot be stolen by a camera. But maybe interpreted. 7. A person's emotional or moral nature: ?An actor is... often a soul which wishes to reveal itself to the world but dare not? (Alec Guinness). A character of a being. I feel a camera can help define this; a good photo can help capture the essence of being in this case. For example the photo of Kennedy looking out the window in the white house, could have been said to capture the pensive soul of JFK. This captured pensive look is now immortal in a sense, too. However with this definition a soul cannot be stolen, just interpreted. 8. A sense of ethnic pride among Black people and especially African Americans, expressed in areas such as language, social customs, religion, and music. This can be viewed and captured with a camera. Stolen even maybe. But a camera will not take all of such a thing, since it is a self defining characteristic. Like the sun. you can capture and view the light but it has plenty to go around. 9. A strong, deeply felt emotion conveyed by a speaker, a performer, or an artist. One Hopes one can capture this and convey it when taking photographs. 10. Soul music. Music on film. That is easy. But maybe the soul of soul music can be captured with images like that of , say Nat King Cole. Now some will debate the existence of the Spiritual Soul. This is an inarguable point so why argue about it? I don?t believe in God. But I do believe that a large percentage of this world does. Because of that belief, one could argue that god does exist in that belief.. after all if you look at God?s definition of himself you can?t argue that He/She doesn?t exist. I also don?t believe that the belief in any thing of this nature (ie something the nature of which cannot be validated or disproved) is ignorant.
     
  103. Byron, how do think the woman in question would define the soul that she fears might be stolen?
     
  104. Quote: "It happened to me recently in the Caribbean island of Bequia, when an old woman covered her face long before I had any idea of taking her picture, and waved me away". We don't know whether she's worried about her soul being stolen, or not. Emre "thinks" that she is worried about her soul being stolen, but perhaps she just wants the photographer to get out of her hair. Unless we interview her about her personal beliefs, we cannot know. In the interim, we can only "project" our own thinking onto her. "Against her will..." is the key phrase. She doesn't want to have her photograph taken (for whatever reason, or motivation) and that should be respected. But then again, sensationalist papers do it all the time.
     
  105. there, what Mubeen said.
     
  106. My mistake... she mentioned the stealing the soul bit after waving me away.
     
  107. maybe the old lady thought Emre was a handsome fellow and wanted attention. seeing the camera. she thought, if I say no, certainly he will ask why, and I can have a conversation. and then He can take my picture. OR, maybe she worked for the CIA. Personally I think some photography can steal one's soul. or capture it. whatever you call it. I don't think it takes all of it. just some projected portreyal of it. as I mentioned before.. like sunlight. we have plenty to go around. and not all photography does, just some. and to address an earlier post. I think BW film in a 35mm camera with a 50mm lens does the best.
     
  108. Raymond, very interesting that thought 'nothing outside the mind exists'. However I think it is the other way around. We seem to be a colection of genes and part of those genes is environmental. So, perhaps nothing exists in the mind, but what we experience and are able to experience....We may be as we wish, perhaps. I love the poem and I have found this thread very interesting. I want to appologise to Thomas and others I may have offended with my naiive and quick judgements, I am not here to judge, sorry. Perhaps taking photos of people without their willing consent is very normal in today's world. Even long ago French female photography students came to Ireland with their large format cameras. They took photos of the Irish people, when the world had never seen Ireland. I guess the Irish were then quite alarmed to be photographed, but hopefully enjoyed the experience. I saw some photos for sale in an Irish church turned restaurant yesterday. Maybe things are a changin' here but it is really slow. To enjoy the church as a venue for lunch seems wonderful. Perhaps the proverbial old woman of the town or village is changing too. In ancient times and still in Ireland, the old woman was the library, the unwritten word a powerful tool. Knowledge passed down through the various old women has filtered back now, this time it is the old women who can learn, but do they have the capacity or need to do so? Perhaps this is a kind of soul, the person who is simply who they are, shy, powerful, gossiping, whatever, the person is a soul unto themselves.
     
  109. Nice series of finishing comments. Wow! :)
     
  110. I travelled quite widely in my youth, mainly in Eastern countries, but I recall only the one incident of an old man in Turkey carrying a load on his back, whose obvious fury at my taking his picture could have been attributed to a belief that I was stealing his soul. But who knows! I didn't stick around to discuss the matter with him and it's very unlikely he would have spoken any English in any case. I've taken similar shots in Nepal, of bare-footed people carrying enormous loads of timber, roof iron and general building material on their backs, along the mountain tracks, as well as shots of family groups of villagers, but I don't recall any annoyance or resistance, apart from the occasional shy person who simply didn't want to be photographed. I really don't think this is a problem.
     
  111. mg

    mg

    Animists do believe that a picture, indeed, stills souls. I personally believe it informs us about souls - i.e. essences of our subject.
     
  112. I agree with Marc G. I saw a series of photos by Reza in National Geo. 1999 where Reza had taken photos of old women from old cultures, they smiled and were at ease with him, because he is and was Reza. However I was reading my old medium format book by Roger Hicks last night, and I saw a photo he took of a group of Indian folks in front of a huge temple, sun setting etc. The lady covering her face whilst the men stood about. Conclusion: it makes a difference who the photographer is, and if you are familiar with the people and the culture you are 'shooting'. Cheers.
     
  113. I want to think that this phenomenon we are discussing, came about as a consequence of the colonizers who came to colonize with the aid of fire-sticks (guns). Maybe, then, the camera is seen as a kind of gun, just perhaps?
     
  114. I was only 76 years of age living a peaceful life in a local brothel,however, on September the 7th 2001 it all ended...my eternal soul was stolen at 5pm in the morning. Her name was Mabel Smith she promised me eternal love to the end of time...seemed rather a long time to me but at 76 you can't be too fussy. Well,she met a butcher mamed Eric, he offered her fresh meat everyday, he was only 62. Well, i lost my eternal soul of love for a pound of fresh meat every day.... I just don't think i can carry on anymore.
     
  115. I have a semi-tame wallaby who sits on my verandah, close to the front door, every morning, waiting for me to feed her sunflower seeds. However, when I raise a camera to photograph her, she takes off. SHE knows about soul stealing. (Okay! I know there are other explanations.)
     
  116. Well, I have known about cultures who believe this.
    Until I worked in television, where people in front of the camera seem to be soul-less, I didn't give it a second thought.
    I think it's true, like radiation tags measuring your collective radiation exposure, the more you sit in front of the camera, the more you end up soul-less. Walter Cronkite may be the exception.
     
  117. my work has attracted so few, as i review my interactions and ratings - i've decided to cut the cord and no longer list here.

    i've sold any number of images at fineartamerica.com and had a lot more comments without paying for my space...

    adieu mes amis
     
  118. Cultural relativity: It is all cultural relativity. A century and a half ago, the father of Rabindranath Tagore, Prince Dwarkanath, when he was staying in one of the best suite apartments in one of the best hotels in Paris, was sought out by the most celebrated Orientalist of the Nineteenth century, Fredrich Max Muller. Dwarkanath and Muiller discussed their shared taste for European Music, and Max Muller asked Dwarkanath if he could hear a specimen of authentic Indian music. When finally Dwarkanath played a piece on the piano, and sang, Max Muller could find in the music neither melody, nor rhythm, nor harmony, and told Dwarkanath who replied: "You are all alike; if anything seems strange to you and does not please you at once, you turn away; When I first heard Italian music, it was no music to me at all; but I went on and on, till I began to like it, or what you call understand it; It is the same with everything else. You may say our religion is no religion, and our poetry is no poetry, our philosophy is no philosophy. We try to understand what Europe has produced, but do not imagine that therefore we despise what India has produced. If you studied our music as we do yours, you would find that there is melody, rhythm, and harmony in it, quite as much as in yours. And if you would study our poetry, our religion, and our philosophy, you would find that we are not what you call heathens or miscreants, but know as much of the Unknowable as you do, and have seen perhaps even deeper into it than you have" As for the eternal soul being stolen (courtesy of Allen Herbert), I read that piece or something like it in "Poems After the Attack: A collection of poems responding to 9/11", some of which can be found here: http://poetry.about.com/od/ourpoemcollections/a/poemsafterattac.htm
     
  119. bmm

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    This overall conversation makes me sad. I re-read the original post, and I get stuck on the closing phrase "I have no idea what these people are thinking".
    My own answer is that its not your place or your right to find some rationale for their wishes and to make your own assessment of them. Especially if you are in their country, on their land. But even in closer-to-home situations, if you are wanting to take someone's images you have to have some measure of their consent to do so, and the humility to not question their beliefs if they say "no". Whether or not you believe in souls, in soul-stealing or whatever is totally irrelevent.
    Perhaps one way to examine this issue is to reverse it back to us... lets say I choose an American flag with which to clean my toilet. I imagine a number of you might be offended at the thought of this. I could say (like many of you have said above to the 'soul' issue) that its nonsense, its just a piece of coloured cloth, and it doesn't have anything to do with my culture or tradition, and its not hurting anyone, so why the upset so I'm just going to keep right on cleaning with it.
    But the better course of action would be for me to understand that the issue is important to someone, and even if I don't fully comprehend why, then its better to err on the side of respect. We have to constantly appreciate that all people of all cultures hold to things that are symbolic and important to us despite them probably being quite silly and irrational if viewed from a totally different perspective and context.
    Anyway bottom line is that to me it has nothing to do with the battle of beliefs. Its much more simple than that. Its about basic respect.
     
  120. In my experience, the first soul the camera steals is the photographer's.
     
  121. What's the situation if you take a photo of someone and they don't know it ?
    Is their soul still stolen ?
    When do they get to know it, if ever ?
    I'm being serious here, this stuff fascinates me.
    Bill P.
     
  122. What's the situation if you take a photo of someone and they don't know it ?
    Is their soul still stolen ?
    When do they get to know it, if ever ?
    I'm being serious here, this stuff fascinates me.
    Bill P.
     
  123. The best that soul believers can do is to try for a stalemate. That is, they move any particular 'belief argument' to the more general category of belief and hope no one will notice.
    Then they say, this is my belief (soul) and that is yours (no soul). Then they say one is no better than the other by virtue of being a mere belief; so (they reckon), in fairness, if you want me to acknowledge your belief, you must also tolerate my unsupported one.
    It's as if they forget the whole concept of value. That is to say, we all experience good beliefs and bad ones throughout our lives. A good belief is characterized by sound reasons. A poor belief has no support in fact and so must appeal to some form of authority (believer deflects responsibility to another ... or some authoritative, a priori 'book of truth').
    Hitler believed certain Europeans were superior and this justified the murder of over six million (inferior) Jews. Hey, don't frown, it was his BELIEF.
    We all acknowledge some kind of valuing when it comes to beliefs ... except (it would seem) when it comes to defending the indefensible.
    There is no plausible defense for the physical existence of an immortal soul unless one is willing to undermine the character of their own well-founded beliefs (i.e. throwing away the ever important value distinctions we all tacitly make).
    As cognitive science continues to unravel the knot of the animal mind/body, there is nothing left for a soul to do. All the things that a soul is supposed to do in the afterlife are now known to require a physical body. No body, no experience. No experience, no memory. No memory, no personal history (nothing to distinguish one soul from the next, so, no way for souls to reunite in heaven).
    No body means, no mouth to communicate with. And without a brain there is no way to read your soul-mate's mind.
    It's just magical thinking -- ignorance's last stand.
    -----------------
    Someone said people don't change, essentially referring to people's beliefs. Do those of you who share this belief believe that your present knowledge is the same as it was when you were first born?
    People, as well as the rest of the animals, change every day as they go about experiencing and interacting with others in their environments. And at least one creature we know of actually has institutions devoted to conceptual CHANGE. The brain/body systems that inhabit this planet are essentially ... change machines. Even the basic animal activities of processing information about ones immediate environment will generally result in change.
    Surely those of you posting in this forum LEARNED to read and write at some point.
    If you've followed any of this, you've changed.
     
  124. "Anyway bottom line is that to me it has nothing to do with the battle of beliefs. Its much more simple than that. Its about basic respect."
    This is pretty good advice in general, but doing philosophy is a different enterprise, it's about examining concepts and beliefs.
    So, the philosopher is asking something like this: Given that respecting the beliefs of others is often the best thing to do in some social situations, what do we do when conflicting beliefs is causing us to suffer? Isn't there a point at which we must set 'respect for respect's sake' aside and deal with the troubling belief systems instead?
     
  125. There is a scene in "Oh Brother Where Art Though" when a hitch-hiking guitarist is given a ride and a religious conversation ensues.

    HITCHHIKER
    Thank you fuh the lif', suh. M'names
    Tommy. Tommy Johnson.

    Delmar is genuinely friendly:

    DELMAR
    How ya doin', Tommy. I haven't seen
    a house in miles. What're you doin'
    out in the middle of nowhere?

    Tommy is matter-of-fact:

    TOMMY
    I had to be at that crossroads las'
    midnight to sell mah soul to the
    devil.

    EVERETT
    Well ain't it a small world,
    spiritually speakin'! Pete and Delmar
    just been baptized and saved! I guess
    I'm the only one here who remains
    unaffiliated!

    DELMAR
    This ain't no laughin' matter,
    Everett.

    EVERETT
    What'd the devil give you for your
    soul, Tommy?

    TOMMY
    He taught me to play this guitar
    real good.

    Delmar is horrified:

    DELMAR
    Oh, son! For that you traded your
    everlastin' soul?!

    Tommy shrugs.

    TOMMY
    I wudden usin' it.
    Ironically, Tommy had more soul than anyone as his (real) guitar playing more than made clear.
     
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    Thomas K - (to the first of your two posts above). No doubt.
    But the assumption that you are making is that the situation is one in which the photographer is quite deliberately and consciously taking the image with a message in mind, and is therefore in a position to trade off the 'bad' of taking the image without consent and to the distress of the subject, with the 'good' which he or she wishes to achieve by testing and exposing those conflicting systems of belief. So (notwithstanding that I'm still not 100% sure that its the right of the photographer to make such a decision unilaterally, not least of which because they are highly likely to have an overinflated view of this supposed 'good' they are trying to achieve) at least there is a deliberate process of judgement going on.
    However... and it is a big however... I am not at all sure that any more than say 0.01% of all 'cross-cultural' images are taken with such serious and noble goals in mind in the first place.
    My educated guess is that there is an immensely much larger population of photographers who just 'want to take a nice picture' rather than create some clear and powerful message about the human condition.
    And attached to this first guess is a second one - which is that this much larger population of photographers treat the deeply held beliefs that some cultures hold about the taking and use of their image as some kind of inconvenience to their perceived 'right' to take photos of whatever they want whenever they want, and then use their view that 'soul-stealing' (or whatever the belief system is) is 'nonsense' to retrospectively justify their disrespectful and insensitive actions.
     
  127. Bernard, thanks for the response. I'm not seeing the points I was trying to make reflected in your response. Let me try again.

    I was not making any assumption about the photographer's project in any way.

    I was revealing an inconsistency (a self deception) that believers make when making the sorts of arguments they do to justify (in some way) the unjustifiable. And the believers in mind were not the natives but rather those in this forum.

    When the jump is made from the particular to the general ('soul vs no soul' to 'belief vs belief'), important features are stripped away in order for one party to preserve his unjustified belief.

    In short, my argument is that we all use forms of justification and verification in living out our lives. These efforts are what makes a belief believable. The better the beliefs fit reality, the better they serve the believer. Our beliefs either serve us well or not so well depending on how well they match or meet the demands of our real environments.

    When the 'belief equals belief' argument is used, the particulars are purposefully (literally) left out of the equation, and in place, the pseudo logic (false equivocation) is supposed to win the day. I'm merely pointing out what is being done, namely that the support of one argument is ignored in order that the unsupported belief has equal footing.

    I am willing to concede that the kinds of encounters photographers have with their subjects, as outlined by the original post, are more social than anything, and thus manners and mutual respect should win the day. (I mean, unless you are fluent in the native tongue, and your education levels are similar, a dialectic on the nature of belief and imaginative entities is usually going to be out of the question). But in any kind of philosophical exchange (as opposed to a street encounter with a native), it's important to see what is going on and to get it out there on the table.

    The table we're at is the philosophy of photography forum, so I was trying to say something of value in that respect.

    To repeat my position: It should be enough for the native to indicate that he or she does not want to be part of your project. However, to toss in a religious explanation is uncalled for but certainly lies within the bounds of acceptable human behavior.

    And I do wonder if perhaps it (the soul stealing defense) is merely a learned strategy handed down through generations by the locals because it's known to work on many gullible Westerners.
     
  128. bmm

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    And I do wonder if perhaps it (the soul stealing defense) is merely a learned strategy handed down through generations by the locals because it's known to work on many gullible Westerners.

    ...maybe that's not so different to my choosing to curiously, suddenly not have any loose change ('...sorry mate...') when approached by a street beggar in Sydney rather than engaging each and every one in a complex and sensitive argument about my choice based on Australian social welfare policy and economic structures. One chooses to (and needs to) use short-hand, euphemisms, white-lies all the time in life or one gets totally bogged down.
    The question is, do they have any obligation to explain themselves even to the non-gullible ones? Or should we just accept their "no" and move on?
    Also lets not flatly discount the religious explanation as 'uncalled for'. For example - though I don't understand it obviously - Australian aboriginals have a very strictly and deeply felt traditions which forbid the viewing of images of deceased people. In many tribal groups they are not even allowed to mention dead people's names. The taking and subsequent use of a photograph against these norms would be deeply hurtful to many of them (indeed our national television stations are required to broadcast formal warnings when they re-run any program in which aboriginal persons have been filmed who may since have died).
    Thats a comment on the back part of your post. On the earlier comments, this is an interesting dilemma. Of course I believe that not all beliefs have the same value, and that some are closer to 'reality' than others (that said, this comes with a large responsibility to accept that my judgement on this issue of proximity to reality may in fact be totally wrong). I would however ask you to include within your definition of 'real environment' a notion of 'social environment'. If a belief is aligned to the beliefs of many in a community, reflected in traditions, social norms, etc then its fit is enhanced irrespective of its inherent logic.
    My final comment is on your words 'unjustified belief'. It makes me question whether there is such a thing, in the first person at least. No-one believes just for fun. Beliefs are there as the core of each person's understanding (operating model if you will) of the world and their place in it. So maybe a belief can only be 'unjustified' to a third party who holds another belief.
    And I guess this all brings me back to my original comment on this issue. We are putting our beliefs ahead of those of our subjects. We are choosing to act on our view that those beliefs are 'unjustified' or 'not proximate to reality' in preference to realising that they may in fact be strongly justified to our subjects, and might be central to their realities and their lives. We are choosing to be absolutist about thngs which are not absolute at all.
     
  129. Mr. Bernard Mills: I have enjoyed and savoured each and every one of your postings to this thread.
    One a different note, Kenelm Burridge's "Encountering Aboriginies" was a remarkable and interesting read, for me.
     
  130. "Australian aboriginals have a very strictly and deeply felt traditions which forbid the viewing of images of deceased people."

    It's one of a bazillion beliefs built upon superstition. This is what our species does when in a state of ignorance regarding aspects of physical causation -- the 'lost generations' is a perfect example of beliefs run a muck (in this case, yours, if you happen to be one of the invaders).

    We are the species that makes stuff up ... but as long as some of us continue to ask why, we will have a future.
     
  131. "And I guess this all brings me back to my original comment on this issue. We are putting our beliefs ahead of those of our subjects."


    I guess I missed that. If I had seen it I would have pointed out that you are making the same error of equivocation. The knowledge that "the camera won't steal your soul" is factual; based on laws of mechanics and optics. The belief that "the camera will steal the soul" is not. No amount of sympathy and respect for cultural myth will change this.
     
  132. And finally, I guess I should have written this in all caps:
    "I am willing to concede that the kinds of encounters photographers have with their subjects, as outlined by the original post, are more social than anything, and thus manners and mutual respect should win the day."
     
  133. In some cultures (and in the case of some individual subjects) staring at others is taken as offensive. In others, it is quite acceptable, up to a point. Photography also engages the person who is being photographed, even if you surreptitiously make that contact and rush off to your monitor and Photoshop to view and evaluate the image. That engagement is not something you can completely control, simply because you happen to want make a picture which includes the other person.
    Bernard, Muben and others have it right, I believe. Respect should be shown to those photographed. If there is a negative reaction or you are amongst those that may feel the photo will steal their soul, or wish not to be photographed for whatever reason, so be it. Showing respect for the other, whether you share their religious or philosophical ideas or not, is an approach that is correct and courteous in the context of photographing others.
     
  134. bmm

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    Thomas K - I have to say I just shake my head.
    Because the bleedingly obvious response to "No amount of sympathy and respect for cultural myth will change this" is that no amount of rational scientific analysis will change the views of people who hold deep cutural or religious beliefs.
    The thing is, I happen to believe like you that a camera cannot steal a soul (actually to be more truthful I do not believe in the concept of souls so I don't believe there is anything to steal in the first place).
    But even more strong is my belief that when we walk this earth, in almost every circumstance we are guests in a shared space. Expecially (but not only) when we are in a country or community which is different from us. And so it is absolutely our duty to behave ourselves in a manner which is not offensive to those people or places who are our 'hosts' or 'fellow sharers', irrespective of the cold rational logic (or lack thereof) behind their traditions and behavioural norms. And I think this particularly strongly in terms of photography where I am 'capturing' something - a person's image - which is very intimitely theirs, and to which I have absolutely no fundamental right irrespective of circumstance or logic.
    Now, be very clear that I am not equivocating. I do hold beliefs and I do make judgements on them. But in turning those judgements into behaviour I apply a certain number of filters and 'checks', because most of the time in life - and especially in social situation - there are factors at play which are far more important than my own assessment of what is right or wrong, truth or myth.
    Finally stop and generalise for a minute. Reverse this upon yourself. What you are advocating is that people should be able to treat you in total accordance with their beliefs and learned logic, and totally disregard yours (what is more, professing some kind of 'rational superiority' as a justification for continuing their behaviours irrespective of any objections you may have). Remember as a part of this that you need to be more humble about the western scientific orthodoxy upon which you so heavily lean - after all at many points in history it has been severely wrong (flat earth anyone?) and it probably will be seen to be wrong again in the future. I'm not disputing the whole science 'thing', in fact I am a relatively conservative western thinker who is drawn heavily towards scientific method and philosophy as the core of my own belief system and 'world view'. But my point is we cannot just make absolutist blanket assumptions about 'rightness' just because something seems pretty ok to us... there is a chance that we've got it very wrong.
    A couple of threads of thought there, but I will try and draw them together. What I am saying is that you are arguing on what is 'right' and 'wrong'. You are saying that some beliefs stack up better than others. I am not disputing that. Intellectually I am not a cultural relativist. So I get where you are coming from in the 'battle of ideas'. And I do think that we photographers need to be having this battle with our audiences, every day and with every image.
    But not with our subjects. The battle of ideas and beliefs has nothing to do with subjects. Taking someone's image with their consent is like receiving a gift. Taking it without is a violation. Its as simple as that.
     
  135. Thomas K, that bit in "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" comes from the Robert Johnson story. He was a guitarist who reportedly sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads between hwy 49 & 61 in Clarksdale in exchange for guitar chops. I don't know if it's true or not, but here's the man playing afterwards....
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd60nI4sa9A
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkftesK2dck
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkftesK2dck
    I imagine more than a few photographers would benefit from a similar trade.
    If the subject objects, for whatever reason, just walk away. Plenty of documentaries have been made (cine and still) of Australian aborigines, BTW.
     
  136. For what it's worth..
    a soul can only be stolen from a person who is aware of the theft, i.e. they need to be aware of you taking their photograph - their condition becomes psychosomatic.
    in all these questions of candid photography, for me the critical question is 'Do you have more right to photograph me than I have a right not to be photographed.'
     
  137. Stephen Hipperson , Sep 15, 2009; 12:48 p.m.
    For what it's worth..
    a soul can only be stolen from a person who is aware of the theft, i.e. they need to be aware of you taking their photograph - their condition becomes psychosomatic.
    That's what I would've thought too.
    Bill P.
     
  138. Well if film photography does steal your soul, digital probably does too. But you can then put it back in Photoshop. :)
     
  139. bmm

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    Stephen -
    a soul can only be stolen from a person who is aware of the theft, i.e. they need to be aware of you taking their photograph - their condition becomes psychosomatic.
    I disagree. Thats like saying some old voyeur pervert who is looking at your 12yo duaghter through the bathroom window as she showers is only doing a bad thing if your daughter sees him. Wrong! The act is bad because it would not gain consent were the question to be asked. That is the test which needs to be applied.
    Oth the other hand... you comment "'Do you have more right to photograph me than I have a right not to be photographed" I think is a perfect one to ask, and I find it very hard to think of instances in which the answer isn't a very big NO.
     
  140. "Thomas K - I have to say I just shake my head. Because the bleedingly obvious response to "No amount of sympathy and respect for cultural myth will change this" is that no amount of rational scientific analysis will change the views of people who hold deep cutural or religious beliefs."

    Bernard, look at what your rhetoric is doing, it makes the same categorical mistake that the false equivocation does. You are suggesting a mirror relationship exists between myth-based and fact-based, but only things that are based in fact, cast reflections (to extend the metaphor), myths do not.

    A mirror relationship DOES exist in that each of us are human beings and are centers of awareness and action, but it doesn't follow that our concepts are equal.

    Yes, it is certainly true that I may not change the views of the native believer, but it is not a certainty by any means. Still, whether or not I can change the native's view is irrelevant in terms of the philosophical issue of ascertaining veracity independent of our respective tribal beliefs. Incidentally, in your own country, plenty of natives no longer believe in the dreaming. So it's clear that education and exposure to outsiders can (and does) work.

    And besides, I wouldn't be arguing with the 'stealable soulist', I would be shooting something or someone else, as I have already indicated, but I would still be correct in my knowledge of there being no such thing as a 'material soul.'

    What more do you understand me as saying?
     
  141. Bernard Mills [​IMG][​IMG], Sep 15, 2009; 07:38 p.m.
    I disagree. Thats like saying some old voyeur pervert who is looking at your 12yo duaghter through the bathroom window as she showers is only doing a bad thing if your daughter sees him. Wrong! The act is bad because it would not gain consent were the question to be asked. That is the test which needs to be applied.
    Well done in picking a 'sensitive' area, which makes it difficult to diagree with you. However, we need to differentiate between 'being wrong' and 'doing harm'. 'Wrong' is defined by society, 'doing harm' is offensive - in the sense that an particular individual receives physical or mental harm. If I take your picture, you don't know and I never show it to anyone, no harm is done, but it may be 'wrong'. Photography is in itself a non-harmful process, it captures the light that you have discarded as unwanted (elements of light will be retained by you as part of your biological function). I'd also argue that we need to differentiate be between the act of photography and it's use. The creation of a photograph can only be in the control of a photographer, the use of a photograph can be performed by anyone. so the old perv, may very well be snapping away, it is 'wrong', but no harm is done until either my fictional daughter sees it, or it causes offence to others or if I, or my wife sees it, the old perv won't take another photograph.
    A person's soul is fundamental to their being, if they don't have one then you can't steal it. But if they believe they do, it must be treated with the utmost respect.
    Apologies if the format of this message is a bit of a mess, I'm trying to get the grips with the technicals of forum use at the moment.
     
  142. "A person's soul is fundamental to their being, if they don't have one then you can't steal it. But if they believe they do, it must be treated with the utmost respect."
    We don't treat the delusions of the maniac with the utmost respect. We don't treat the logical errors of the neophyte with utmost respect. So why treat the rantings of the mystic, the repetitious copying of the fool, or the uninformed literalistic pronouncements of the fundamentalist with our utmost respect? Inquiring minds want to know.
     
  143. Answer to the question: Of course it steals the soul, if it is a good picture, and of course if there is one, but of course, if they don't have one, well, the picture contrives the soul, and not always with respect but always perceived by the viewer.
     
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    Stephen - I broadly agree with your distinction. However surely it is any decent person's intent to do neither... And it does handily separate in this argument the question of whether one shold only be dissuaded by active objection.
    Thomas K - Because these people are not generally neophytes, maniacs or fools. Because these people see our blind faith in western scientific method* as fundamentalism, just as you see their beliefs thereas. But most importantly, again, we should not expect to have to be given a good reason not to take what is not ours to take. The issue is consent, not the logic behind the consent.
    *I've put a star next to western scientific method because the thought came to mind that in fact our own scientific philosophy is awfully cautious of declaring something as fact. Though I'm going back a few years now in my education, I seem to recall that the basic model is to put up null and alternate hypotheses, and to conduct experiments which aim for the alternate hypothesis not to be discarded (at whatever confidence interval is chosen). So even at the core of our own system of beliefs is this idea that there isn't 'fact' but rather there is a collection of hypotheses/ideas that seem to stand up to current attempts to disprove them, and that therefore constitute the current accepted body of knowledge. I'm obviously pointing this out as a reason to not be so absolutist about what we, the 'rational west', apparently know...
     
  145. I broadly agree with your distinction. However surely it is any decent person's intent to do neither... And it does handily separate in this argument the question of whether one shold only be dissuaded by active objection.
    Unfortunately, 'decent' as a definition of human behaviour seems to be a thing of the past. For myself, I take few if any candid shots, unless they are of my close family. Unfortunately, I also firmly believe that the true personality of an individual can only be 'caught' in a candid shot (in the sense of the subject not knowing it's being taken) . Anything else is affected.
    At the end of the day 'maniac' can only be defined from a certain perspective. The 'maniac' should also respect the view of others. As to not treating the mistakes of neophytes with respect, I'm afraid a teacher who fails to do this is in the wrong job, 'honest' mistake are respected by me. "
    So why treat the rantings of the mystic, the repetitious copying of the fool, or the uninformed literalistic pronouncements of the fundamentalist with our utmost respect?
    Personally I'm not pompous enough to think they're necessarily wrong and I'm necessarily right. "Doing harm" applies to all, the fundamentalist, as well as me.
    It does all come back to the question 'How can you do something, which is so simply not done, that does harm to somebody else?' If an individual believes that I do them harm (take their soul) by taking their photograph, how could I possibly continue to take it - is this not an offensive, aggressive act? Just because one believes that souls are twaddle, that the existance of an after life is impossible so therefore it can't exist or in the purity of science, doesn't mean that anothers beliefs are unworthy of consideration. We are not computers, we are human - all of us, not just some of us.
     
  146. Bernard--
    I don't think I have to be absolutist to believe that the scientific model has more practical validity than the fundamentalist religious model. I merely have to be willing to make a judgment. Which I do. The reason Apartheid ended in South Africa is because the world judged that, despite the South African government's belief in its tradition and its belief that our own ways of equal treatment of human beings was simply our "fundamental" view of humanity, they were wrong and we are right. I'm glad the world made that judgment and effected the changes it did. I think those kinds of judgments are and should be made all the time. Recognizing the equal ferocity of two opposing beliefs seems reasonable toward understanding how people work and why they act and think the way they do. But recognizing that equality of strength of beliefs does not mean to me that all beliefs are equal. Some are evil, some are wrong, some are stupid, some must be dealt with and suppressed.
    If an adult came to me and said he still believed in the tooth fairy, I'd try to educate him, no matter the strength of his belief and no matter if he felt my belief that the tooth fairy does not exist was as fundamentally based as his own. I'd feel perfectly justified in judging his belief to be ridiculous even while recognizing he thought mine as ridiculous . . . because I'd know he was nuts.
    So I much more agree with Thomas's logic in this thread and I think he's eloquently explained a lot about beliefs and he's given a strong argument against moral relativism, which I see your own argument easily leading to.
    That being said, I am much more inclined to yours and Stephen's approach regarding the photographic question. Generally speaking, I shoot others from a standpoint of respect and I try to avoid exploiting people. It would be rare that my need to take a shot would trump in my own mind someone else's request for privacy. Their reason would be secondary to their desire in this case. I would have no trouble judging their reason absolutely ridiculous, even false. I might have little or no respect for that reason, and in the case of souls that would be precisely my position. But that wouldn't stop me from respecting their request not to have their photograph taken.
     
  147. "Because these people are not generally neophytes, maniacs or fools. Because these people see our blind faith in western scientific method* as fundamentalism, just as you see their beliefs thereas."

    These statements are nonsense. And for your information, Blind faith refers to faith without reason. You don't know who these people are or might be. In contrast, I am defining them by their stated beliefs. You are running in circles. Why?

    "But most importantly, again, we should not expect to have to be given a good reason not to take what is not ours to take."
    You are making the huge leap that there is something there that is stolen. You are merely playing a shell game with words.
    And as I have already repeated several times, I agree that if someone objects to you taking his picture, then courtesy dictates that we don't. (Please indicate that you grasp this by nodding once, please.)
    For the record, the matter of giving good reason is what is done in a philosophical discussion ... you know -- HERE, in this forum.
     
  148. Hi Fred,
    "That being said, I am much more inclined to yours and Stephen's approach regarding the photographic question. Generally speaking, I shoot others from a standpoint of respect and I try to avoid exploiting people. It would be rare that my need to take a shot would trump in my own mind someone else's request for privacy. Their reason would be secondary to their desire in this case. I would have no trouble judging their reason absolutely ridiculous, even false. I might have little or no respect for that reason, and in the case of souls that would be precisely my position. But that wouldn't stop me from respecting their request not to have their photograph taken."
    You wouldn't know it from Bernard's responses to mine, but this IS my approach as well. Thanks for your contributions to this discussion.
     
  149. Stephen,
    "Just because one believes that souls are twaddle, that the existance of an after life is impossible so therefore it can't exist or in the purity of science, doesn't mean that anothers beliefs are unworthy of consideration."
    It is in considering beliefs (their articulated forms, and the basis for them), that we come to understand them.
    Maybe you have something different in mind when you say 'consideration.'
     
  150. "As to not treating the mistakes of neophytes with respect, I'm afraid a teacher who fails to do this is in the wrong job, 'honest' mistake are respected by me. "
    I am afraid you are mistaken. You respect the student, not the errors. Or, perhaps 'respect' is not the word you really wanted. We attempt to teach students how to find and correct error. We acknowledge error, we attempt to understand it (as a means to accessing a student's processing), we do not respect it.
     
  151. bmm

    bmm

    Nods once towards Thomas K and extends the hand of friendship too
    Sorry mate if I sound heated, debating online can do that sometimes. I totally acknowledge that we are playing with ideas and I am in not way coming away from this with a view that you are discouteous or anything negative. Quite the opposite I am enjoying having my views tested by yours.
    Just to clarify, a few posts above when you point out my 'huge leap', I was not originally referring to taking a soul (as I thnk I said before I don't believe in souls). The 'thing which is not ours to take' to which I was referring is more simply someone's image without consent.
     
  152. Bernard,
    Thanks. Offer accepted.
    I'm glad you didn't take me wrong. Still, I need to work on the delivery.
    I am sure there are some reading who immediately place a voice with my words based on their reaction to my terms which are often purposefully void of any customary attempt to hide my emotional investment. It's not that I am ill-mannered, it's just that writing with manners hides clarity to some extent. And as lazy as I am, I just haven't the energy to give much time to worrying about putting makeup on the face of my thoughts.
    Besides, one never knows if or when ones post will be deleted here (knock on wood).
    I do stand behind what I am attempting to articulate. If you press me for clarity I will attempt to dig deeper instead of fleeing in a burst of ink (the octopus escape), a common escape method found online.
    I don't think my response earlier was presupposing a definite object -- soul or image. The idea was that "image" is no better than "soul." The "image" you speak of, in such possessive terms, may as well be a soul. Both seem to be based in religious thought.
    I guess I am saying the whole "my image" concept is mistaken. What I object to are actions that violate a person's reasonable expectation not to be exploited merely by being in a public space.
    It is a perversion to inflict ones momentary interests over the "reasonable privacy expectations" of a fellow human being. And those who do it for money are not only perverts, but whores as well.
    There. How's that?
     
  153. bmm

    bmm

    Thomas K - very much enjoyed reading your post above.
    To extend my goodwill indeed I very much enjoyed reading your entire side off our argument because, in fact, my general disposition is to have limited patience for cultural relativism, and for (what I see as the uncourageous and flawed) shying away from making judgements and acting on them even if that results occasionally in social tension.
    This general disposition causes me to struggle with myself at times (ie whether to impose my own view and preference, how important it is to do so in a given situation, what other factors are at play) and perhaps indeed some of the intensity in my writing above reflected more an internal discomfort at these issues and an argument within myself than anything else.
    I can only imagine in practise how this issue plays out for a photojournalist who has somewhat of a duty, and less latitude to exercise the social choice that we have...
     
  154. For me, the fundamental right that people have is the right to deal with death as they feel they have to. If that means the idea of a soul comes into play, and my activity of 'taking their soul' interferes with their 'death beliefs', then I would not take that photo. Death is inevitable and no matter who you are, you will be tempted to appeal to a 'higher being', it may not be for yourself but a loved one, when the time comes. The soul is 'transport mechanism' that people use for the tranisition between life and death - how can we take that from them.
    It is for sure this kind of discussion is best down the pub, where there can be some continuity, faster interaction, time and other such things that face to face contact allows!
     
  155. "The soul is 'transport mechanism' that people use for the tranisition between life and death - how can we take that from them."

    (I wonder; are these "them" the same unspeakable them who are using film more and more these days?) [parenthetical reference to another POP thread]
     
  156. B M Mills: "This general disposition causes me to struggle with myself at times (ie whether to impose my own view and preference, how important it is to do so in a given situation, what other factors are at play) and perhaps indeed some of the intensity in my writing above reflected more an internal discomfort at these issues and an argument within myself than anything else."

    Well, these are all good points, but as philosophers, if we are serious about it, we each seek a universality to our views.

    So, although it is true that our views are perspectival (partial and limited) it does not follow that they are "subjective" in the strict sense -- a subjective view is a result of something peculiar to that subject, like cataracs changing someones vision or a brain disorder being at the root of odd behavior. Personal tastes would seem to fall within this category as well. But views that have been informed by the articulations of others or, have routinely been subject to the perview of others, tend to fall outside it.

    No?
     
  157. This is my opinion & you may or may not agree. But I do think to an extent.. The Native American & Carribean belief that a picture steals your soul is true in a way. I don't think they mean that in a literal way or right at that moment.. But when you die your energy can still be attached to an image of you, be it a photograph or drawing. There have been people who are haunted in their homes by old photographs of someone who previously lived in the home.. Depending on the nature of that person & how they died & other factors. If someone has a photograph of you and was into black magic or voodoo they can use the picture of you to create a doll or just use the picture a lone to put a curse or hex on you. There are even people who practice witchcraft positively using white magic and could be very infatuated with them or in love with someone who might not love them.. And can create a love spell towards that specific individual with a photograph of them, their name & date of birth. And when you think about the damaging things a photograph does that is used illegally as in child pornography it's very damaging to that person yet used as a positive thing of excitement for that pedophile which is sick. But now I'm getting off track.. But the nature of a photograph creates many elements but a photograph does steal your soul... Not all of it, but a part of who you are.. Small part & for some that might mean their soul. And when photographs are taken in a negative & degrading manner.. A much bigger part of you. When I was 12 years old I learned that I might have Native American Ancestry & have tried to learn a lot about their beliefs ' superstitions & who they are.. I heard about picture stealing your soul a long time ago & their may be some Natives who still believe it but I think the younger generation.. Are aware of the superstition but it's not exactly something they follow especially in a society today where we love taking pictures and posting them on Facebook & instagram. I love pictures too but I have come to find out the Native superstition does hold true because when you die.. A part of you.. Your energy stays with that picture depending on how you died or the nature that picture was taken.. ESP if it was in a very bad nature. Native Americans were not dumb or primitive people.. They were very smart & very in-tuned with nature & spirits more so than any other people I have seen. I don't know why the lady didn't want her picture taken it may not have been because she thought you were going to steal her soul with your photograph.. It could have been because she didn't think she looked nice that day or the fact that she didn't know you & didn't know what your intentions were with the photograph of her.
     
  158. I am entering so late in the discussion that I may (surely) have overlooked strings on exchanges; so forgive me if I am repeating an issue:
    I see back-and-forth on the meaning of "soul" to be considered as the core difference, and that if it is solved (i.e., if brought into words) then the issue is clear. To me, both sides of the issue, the ones who believe there is such thing as soul, and those who believe there is no such thing as soul, are (identically) the same. The devil is in the term "believing", not in the term "soul". Believing means accepting, or asserting, an idea without convincing, not only the listeners, but also oneself. "Believing" is a form of "shut up and obey", rather than "a state of knowledge".
    At the end, the term "subject's soul" is neither "correct", nor "wrong"; it is non-sense; i.e., it does not carry any sense. It is as if I say " the reason to existance is to be found in "armadraba" ". It only is meaningful if one, in the process of convincing (oneself or other-) stops reasoning and resorts to "faith" and "believe", etc. "Soul" and other non-sense like God, and Good/Bad, have historically been only weapons in hands of the religious exploiter.
     
  159. What I find unfortunate in reading this interesting discussion is the very rigid way in which the "rationalists" seem to be interpreting 'fact' and the "ephemeralists" seem to be interpreting 'equivalence of emotional and logical value'. We can all think of many inherently offensive ideas which were considered factual by those of high intelligence working sincerely from both points of view, but facts are unfortunately, very often not facts at all. Religious believers neeed not be any more 'fundamentalist' than dry rationalists; those who peremptarily dismiss any attempt at formulating a world-view using the more sublimated aspects of the human experience as folly, can be equally fundamentalist as those who damn to unspeakable horror and ostracisation anyone who rejects their creed. The relationship between Human Experience, "Objective Reality" and Culture is far too complex to rely simply on the "it doesn't make sense to me so I can belittle it" defense and any dogma from either camp is likely to end in failure, recrimination or foolishness.
    The original exchange which prompted the thread has given us an expansive springboard from which to explore these themes, but I feel it is most important neither to cleave to the stupidity of rationalism nor the blindness of superstition. I do not believe in God but if I did I would feel obligated to hate him. But I do believe that those who close themselves off from religiosity of any type deny themselves the most profound and inherently valuable aspects of human experience. Monotheism is only a tiny part of this richness.
     
  160. And we must remember to neither be contemptuous nor arrogant irrespective of the belief system that we believe.
     
  161. Religious or non-religious believers, are the same, as both believe, meaning that, they have come to a state of knowledge that is beyond proof (for themselves or for others). A believer (either a religious one who believes in a God without proof, or a scientist who believes, without prrof that there are yet-to-be-discovered rules for nature) escapes the burden of proof and hides the curiosity under the carpet. Religion has conditioned us, both the religious and the scientist, that there is a ceiling for proof (a la Kant) and with that leaving room for non-provable nonsense. And is this arrogant to say, or is it merely a "harsh" reality. I encourage a "believer" to sit with himself/herself, and try to answer all questions of curiosity, without damping or hiding them.
     

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