It was a quiet moment on Saturday just before the opening of the Hindsight’s G20/20 exhibit; I looked up and saw this young woman (a friend of the organizers) sitting by a window, Macbook in hand. The soft light was ideal for a portrait, so out came the iPhone for a picture. I then applied an effect from the VintageScene iPhone app, not for the sake of an effect, but because it got the image closer to what I was seeing.
I haven’t had a chance to use it yet, but if the open mic portion of the Hindsight’s G20/20 exhibit goes ahead today, here is what I would say:
There is a town in Europe that at one time as a tourist attraction, would put on a life-size chess game once a year. The part of the chess pieces would be played by living people dressed in costumes, white or black, appropriate to the piece. The chess board was appropriately large, of course. The actual chess game however was a reenactment of a game from a few hundred years ago, so the outcome was predetermined. There would be no surprises, everyone knew what they were supposed to do, and were constrained by moves hundreds of years old. In a sense, everyone was a pawn.
I have felt in the past that protest marches in Canada have often been like that; everyone knew their role, invisible boundaries and unwritten rules would be observed, whether by protesters or police, and at the end of protest nothing would have really changed.
The impact G20 protests are helping to change that, not because of the police brutality, or the childish actions of the so-called Black Block, but because of the overwhelming presence protesters and observers, armed with cameras and video recorders, many linked to social networks. Citizen journalists all, who turned the surveillance society back on itself, as the authorities ended up under the microscope of thousands of lenses. The police have lost the advantage of plausible deniability; it is almost impossible for them to brutalize and then claim it never happened.
The lens is a more powerful weapon in the long run than teargas, billy clubs or bullets, whether rubber or lead. When it comes to the camera, we have the right to bear arms, and thus we need to be “packing heat” every time we step outside our homes.
I’ll finish by co-opting a slogan from the NRA: You can have my camera when you pry it from my cold dead hands.
People used to say “the camera never lies.” Nonsense. The world is 3-D, cameras for the most part are 2-D. The world (for humans at least) is in colour, and photographs are often in black and white. I would go so far as to say that what makes a photograph special is how it differs from reality, and that the difference directly informs what the photographer is trying to say in an image.
The image below is unrealistic. It is black and white, and deliberately underexposed to bring out the white bicycle and roses, which where in fact a temporary monument to cyclists killed on Toronto streets earlier this year. (The monument has since been removed.) For the subject matter, the non-realism I added to the image for me captures a tragic reality, and that’s as real as it gets.
This week’s time warp doesn’t go back as my other time warps to date. The image below is not even analog film, but a digital image created in late summer, 2004 using my old Canon Digital Rebel. The picture is a portrait of my niece, sitting on the deck of my sister’s cottage.
In Canada, summer is a temporary, uncertain season; we know that the inevitable shadow of winter is lurking beneath the horizon. But for a moment, whether the moment that is summer or the seeming moment that is childhood, time can stand still, allowing us to contemplate the peace, contentment and joy of that fleeting time.
In the six years that have passed, we have known plenty of winter in the relentless passing of time; childhood has been left behind, loved ones have passed away, and summer has often seemed distant. At least a photograph allows us to perceive a visual echo of a perfect, eternal moment.