Hearing my name called out for The KW United Way Small Business Community Spirit Award I stumbled towards the stage in a bit of a haze. It was unexpected. I was excited when I heard I had been nominated. I had covered this event for the United Way for several years and enjoyed listening to people’s stories as they wandered up to the stage to get their hand gripped holding onto their plaque while I took their photograph.
Very interesting being on the other side. Unfamiliar, a little awkward. All those comments people would make to me when I took their portraits came to mind. Is there anything in my teeth? Is my hair alright, my tie straight?
I didn’t hear any of my own story on my way up. I heard a word here and there. I was completely out of my element. Walking through a tunnel, all alone until I gripped Nancy Bird’s hand. Ahhh a familiar voice. An ally up here on the stage looking out over the throng as this guy made odd gestures at us with this black device glued to his face which flashed now and again. “Smile”, say what?
Simply fascinating looking back. Empowering to be on the other side. A reminder of what it’s like to be photographed. A reminder of the importance to engage, to help make the technology disappear towards taking something somewhat natural in a most unnatural situation.
I am reminded of my school days. I had a desire to take portraits. I felt uncomfortable doing it. In my second year at Ryerson I had to create a portfolio of self portraits. Portraits of myself as I saw myself and as “the other”. I made myself look like a woman (scary, I know!), an angry man, an intellectual, a frightened little boy…. The process lifted me up over that wall of fear empowering me to comfortably take portraits of people for many years to come. Still going strong.
Fellow photographers! Never forget what we are doing with our cameras. Remember what it’s like to be on the other side of this powerful recording device. Be empathetic. Honour the fine folks who have trusted us with telling a part of their story. A huge responsibility. A fantastic experience I continue to get charged about.