for the past six weeks or so, since my fieldwork has been on hold, i’ve been taking a photography class online through flower city arts center.* it has really helped me think more deeply about why i make photos, and why photoethnography makes sense to me as a method for living and learning on fertile ground, particularly during fallow time.
a partial list of potential photographic motivations, noninnocent:**
to capture, or to liberate to humanize, or objectify to find the light in a dark time to prove we were there to interrogate notions of “proof” to feel something to add a “pop of color” to break up some imagined monotony to be with others, to be alone to get outside to expand our space to chart a path to start a conversation to render the ugly beautiful, and the beautiful ugly*** to render the strange familiar, and the familiar strange to reconnect to get closer to keep our distance to save something for later to move this out of short term memory to capitalize on the power dynamics inherent in any looking relation to fill a cup to shed some light, or some baggage to share to circulate to archive to blend in to stand out to set the scene to see something else, or differently to try out a new lens to fill a gap to rest our eyes to be ok
lately, i’ve been making photos to cope, to care, to soothe. below are some–but not all–of my favorites from the past several weeks.
* “street photography and personal documentary,” taught by jason wilder
** donna haraway (1991, 2016) often writes about the concept of noninnocence, as a way to grapple with complicity, even from positions of subjugation.
*** thank you for this articulation, kylie newcomer 🙂
my friends and interlocutors (conversation partners) often say beautiful, wondrous, and powerful things. waist-deep in field notes and preliminary interview transcripts, i’ve spun some of their utterances into a series of haiku. a kind of ethnopoetic bricolage.* the words that follow, lifted from nine conversations in five- and seven-syllable phrasings, are all theirs.
a commitment pear to get the garden growing oh, thank you spirit
keep the garden right the heart of a black woman make it beautiful
keep renaming us i took the garden over who the fuck are you?
you just crushed my heart a white man in a black skin be a garden bed
garden of outrage braiding seeds into our hair it’s a feel-good thing
neighbors down the street companion planting ethic seeing what blossoms
* see renato rosaldo on ethnopoesis and les roberts on bricolage in spatial anthropology. i am experimenting with imposing an arbitrary structure on ‘raw data’ as a method of writing and thinking on my way to more coherent ‘findings’ (while at the same time attempting to reject any hierarchy that marks more socially acceptable and legible forms of scholarship as more rigorous than the adjacent play and experimentation that makes these forms possible). i use a lot of scare quotes because i am profoundly uncertain about these terms. i take inspiration from projects like the hundreds by lauren berlant and kathleen stewart and forthcoming experimental work by peter benson.