Monday, 2 June 2008
The whole thing lasted a few seconds, but I've had to spend much more time thinking about my responses to it. A whole seres of jumbled thoughts came into my head, but foremost of these was a strong urge to pull out my camera and take pictures of the scene. My brain was putting together a composition in my head, I was pre-visulaising how I wanted the image to look. The man lying on the cobbles, with his wethered hands in front of him, the elevation of the bus almost making it seem like you were viewing yourself in an out of body experience. Would it look better in colour or black and white?
At the same time my thoughts were telling me that someone had fallen, they might be hurt, they might be dying, they might already be dead. I had a competing urge to get off the bus and see if I can help, which I immediately discounted because there was nothing I could do to help, I don't know first aid and there were already people on the ground. Another impulse resisting the urge to take a photograph was that it was morbid, that you couldn't reduce someone's life to an attractive composition or a cool black and white photo. Is it right to try and create something beautiful out of something tragic? On the other hand would the image be useful to the police? Unlikely.
It all sounds a bit callous, but in a way its something I've been training myself to do every since I witnessed a brawl that led to a murder. Since it happened I have tried to make sure that I always have a camera with me, so that I can be a better witness if I was ever put in the same situation again. The other side of the coin is that I have been training myself to see the composition and the light, which I why I started to think that way too. Being a good witness in this case wouldn't have helped anyone, or brought anyone to justice, but the instincts were still there.
I didn't take the shot. Could I have been proud of it if I had taken it? I don't know. In "On Photography" by Susan Sontag, I felt that she villifies photography, she uses some harsh language to describe it, words like theft and rape. She criticises the way that some photographers try to show beauty in terrible things, and today I felt that she was speaking to me. Having said that, there are photojournalists around the world who have to make the choice every day.
If you have had to make the same choices I'd like to hear from you. Leave me a comment or send me and email or flickr mail if you want to comment confidentially
Posted by Paulo Rodrigues at 20:25