A recent heated discussion on a photographer making her political affiliations known led me to another thought… is there a line you won’t cross in your work? Should there be?
It is a competitive market out there. There are bills to pay, and gear to maintain, and braces for the kids. I know it is hard to turn down work, but I have on occasion. I have some standards that are my own, and they are not forced on anyone else. And I try to adhere to them.
I think when the discussions of politics and religion come up, I tend to shy away if it is in a business setting. At a party, I have no problem with telling someone that they are wrong. And I am told I am wrong a lot of times as well. (Usually by people that are wrong about me being wrong, but I digress…)
But it also reminds me of Jill Greenburg and her notoriously stupid move with the photos of Presidential nominee John McCain. Not stupid in the way that someone would mean she should have liked him, but stupid in the way it made photographers come into more scrutiny by editors. Stupid in that it made the job of photographers who may agree or disagree with a candidate more under the microscope of the handlers and people around them. And it was totally unethical. It cost her a bit at the time.
I think a photographer has two choices when doing this kind of work:
1. Do the job as a professional, work as hard as you always do to make a photograph that is excellent. Then keep your mouth shut as to what you ‘really feel’ about the person or company or eeeeeevillll corporation. Cash the check, show your book, get more gigs.
2. Don’t do the gig.
ARGGGHHHH… turn down a gig?
Yeah. Why not? If your personal feelings are so strong that you cannot move past them and do the gig right, then don’t do it. Mountains will not crumble, nor will there be rending of cloth and fear in the eyes of children. It’s OK. Say no.
I have a few lines I won’t cross in my work.
1. I do not shoot real fur. Ever. Not that I am one of the wackos who throw paint on people wearing furs (someone is going to try that on the wrong person… ), but I also realize that there comes a time where necessity does not bear out the reality. There is no need for the fur trade in my opinion. However, I also don’t give a damn if someone else has a fur on. Not my issue.
2. “Heroine Chic” – it was one of the reasons for me leaving the fashion world. When fashion turned to making women look like crack whores, I was no longer interested. I have girls and I don’t want that crap to be what they aspire to. Do I march in the street with signs and chant stupid lyric over it? Hell no, I am busy. I just ignore it like I ignore kanye west and lady gagme. Not ‘against’, just not interested.
3. I will not depict smoking as sexy. And yet, I am a huge supporter of leaving people who smoke the hell alone. I think it is a dumb idea to inhale smoke, but if they dig it… not my problem. But depicting it as sexy and cool… well, then I am contributing my work to the situation. And that is not the way I roll.
Recently a very sad thing happened to me. A client I have worked with for nearly 15 years called and asked if I would work with her on a campaign for a political stance I am VERY opposed to. I politely said no, but wished her well. She began to badger me into taking her position… something I am never gonna do. I said that it would not be a good match for me, as I would probably be working on the ‘other side’ of the issue.
She has not spoken to me since. And I miss her.
But it is the way of the world these days I guess. Take a stand and lose a friend.
But take a stand, nonetheless.
Do you have any “lines in the sand” you won’t cross? (And please, keep it generic so we don’t have any back and forth with affiliations and personal attacks. It took less than thirty posts on a recent Flickr thread before Godwin’s law was invoked. I banned the offender. I have a no-tolerance policy for some things – vitriolic name calling for one.
Share your lines in the sand with us in the comments.
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And if you are looking for an amazing workshop, check out the one Kirk Tuck and I are doing together in San Diego. Very tight group of 10 photographers and 2 instructors for 3 full days.