Objectification

I heard Tori Allen on Metro Morning talking about the GOTCHA exhibit.  An installation which asks people wandering around during Nuit Blanche to photograph a stranger on the street who is an “ethnic” and send the photograph to be displayed in real time, as part of the installation.

“Artists and audiences attending Nuit Blanche are welcomed to participate in this surveillance project. You can take photographs discreetly or overtly of people you identify as “ethnic” based on your own perception and interpretation.

Participants are asked to use their cell phones to capture faces, by using a pop mail server technology. These photos will be used to create a real-time projection in 401 Richmond.”

Now while this is a fascinating concept – who defines what as “ethnic”, this “surveillance project” is encouraging people to do more of something which is already a very touchy subject – photographing people on the street without their permission.

Recently, while working in a coffee shop with my camera on the table, a man approached me to ask about the camera. It turns out that he was trying to ask if I was taking clandestine photos of him. After I assured him my camera was off, we talked a bit. Due to a very large and very obvious facial deformity this man has found himself followed into stores and restaurants just so people can snap off a couple of photos and then turn around and walk away.

Digital camera technology has significantly reduced his quality of life. He goes out less and he avoids public places because he comes face to face with the lack of respect people have for others who are different. With digital technology comes a new level of responsibility for respecting those around you, or at least it should.

Yes, yes, I point my camera at my friends all the time. But it’s rare that I’d ever take a recognizable photograph of a stranger without permission. Even rarer that I would post it. This entire exhibit is about street photography being immediately used in an exhibit. I can see this exhibit actually keep some people away from Nuit Blanche, which is a sad thing.

But hey, rant over, the event is still going to rock.

What do you think?

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