Thursday, 4 October 2012

POV: Avedon Would ROFL

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

On my final full day in Hanoi, I walked over to Hoan Kiem lake with the intention of photographing people enjoying this popular and scenic area, and came across a group of young photographers (seemingly all hobbyists) surrounding the woman seen in the above photograph. After a few words of halting English, I understood they were members of a photo club or group, who were photographing one of their friends...perhaps as an assignment or just for fun.

I asked her (and her friends) if I could also take a picture, and they all readily agreed. Using my M9 with a Voigtlander 40mm set at f 1.4 to enhance the bokeh, I made a few frames and left.

A few days later, I posted the photograph on my Facebook page with this lighthearted title: "Here's My Future Career Plan: Hang A Shingle In Hanoi's Hoan Kiem Lake....And Photograph The Pretty Ladies."

In fact, I had seen a number of local professional photographers taking pictures of people with Hoan Kiem lake as backdrop...and wondered how they made a living, now that almost everyone had a digital camera of some sort.

Whilst some two dozen FB friends liked the photograph and commented on my post, two seemed to have been offended by it, and left comments which, in essence, criticized it because it "sexualized women".

Yes, I kid you not. A lighthearted post...self-deprecating perhaps...leads two of FB friends to accuse me of sexualizing women. Of course, once I asked them to remove their comments, they claimed they were being lighthearted as well. Sure they were.

Brilliant intellect it's not of course...but this is where we are. We give ourselves the right of interpreting and criticizing other people's intentions and actions (even if we don't know them personally).

I take a walk in Hanoi, take a picture or two of a woman (only after her permission, as well as that of her friends), write a lighthearted post of the experience...and I get a couple of cheap and vulgar shots in return.

I wonder what would Avedon have said in reply to these puerile comments...how would David Bailey have reacted if these two had said the same about his portraits of Jean Shrimpton? I'm hardly comparing myself to these two giants of fashion photography...but the fact remains that they are men making photographs of beautiful women. Is that the problem?

In any event, the silly comments were quickly removed by their authors...but I urge everyone who's on Facebook (or any other social media) not to ignore comments that may impugn their reputation...comments that are made intentionally or innocently and especially if, as they said, the comments were made"in a lighthearted way".

Don't let it go...ever!