I'm so conflicted about photographing people since the hurricane hit, capturing and documenting them in their time of pain.
I watch journalists and other individuals photograph people in all sorts of situations: standing in food lines, gathering clothing, crying on their front steps, cleaning out their basements, in quiet moments on the beach. I just can't seem to make peace with either photographing them without their consent, or asking their permission.
This wouldn't be such a conflict if it was just a passing desire. But, the desire is much stronger than that. It's not just that I want to capture the moment, I want to immortalize it, to witness it and to share it with others. Social documentary pulls at my very core.
Taz and I discussed this a few night's ago, and I also talked about it with a freelancer working for CNN that I met on the subway, this push pull of emotional responses. Both Taz and Carols gave me great feedback, and when I'm in my house, I can rehearse the words they suggested and feel comfortable with them, but then when I'm out and I see someone who I'm drawn to photograph, I can't get past this inner conflict.
They may not even be crying or in distress, just cleaning their yard, or mopping out their basement, or walking down the street, but I just can't get past the feeling that to photograph them would be to invade upon them and to ultimately be disrespecting their circumstances.
How will I ever succeed as a freelancer writer and photographer when I'm torn between my vast desire to document the people and the events here, and the debilitating desire to be respectful of them?
Is it disrespectful to take their photographs during these times? Isn't it important to document what's taking place, so others know what's happening, so these people and these places aren't forgotten? Is is worth upsetting someone by taking their photograph? Why do I assume that it will upset them? Why do I take it so personally when people say no when I do ask? Is it worth isolating myself from them by even asking? Will asking them isolate me from them? What do I have to lose? What do I have to gain? And on and on it goes inside my head and inside my heart.
I've tried dedicating specific times in the days that I'm volunteering where I only volunteer and then times in those same days where I document. This hasn't been very successful. When someone needs help, I can't stand to the side and take pictures, I help.
It's an endless internal battle between my heart and my head, and I just don't know how to reconcile the two disparities. And in the meantime, opportunities for incredible images pass me by on a daily basis and I'm getting increasingly frustrated and angry with myself.
Why am I holding myself back? What am I not willing to risk? What is keeping me contained in my safe cocoon where I don't risk anything?