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One Photograph, Conflicting Perspectives

Homeless Man
PHOTO: Darren Calabrese / National Post

If you’re living anywhere in the colder parts of North America, chances are you’re like me today – wearing two pairs of pants, two shirts and a hoodie and only leaving your house when it’s absolutely necessary. It’s THAT cold. With Canadian temperatures dipping leaps and bounds below freezing point with wind-chill, most of the country is under extreme weather warnings and advisories.

The National Post published this story about the cold conditions the nation is facing and the precautions we should be taking. The story was accompanied by a photograph of a homeless man dusted in snow, asleep on the sidewalk and it stirred many thoughts in my mind.

I understand the intention of the image completely, but something about the fact that someone saw this man and photographed him irks me enough to debate its necessity.

The first thought I have is that of course, the photo drives home an important message. There are people suffering on our streets and this serves as a stirring reminder that winter is cruelest to those without homes. The footprints that trace where people have stepped around him and the people walking in the background paint a picture of the unfortunate reality that people ignore what makes them uncomfortable. In my mind this is no doubt an issue of equality that we should all be working to correct. The image tells a complete story in itself and I can see why the photographer would snap it.

On the other hand I can’t help but feel that the photographer should have sought some kind of help for the man and used that to create an even more interesting story, if not an informative one. Most areas of the country are facing frostbite warnings and in some cases, risk of hypothermia, so I just can’t imagine myself stopping to photograph this scene while for all I know he could need medical attention and at the very least, shelter. To me it seems ironic that in a story about keeping safe from the cold a photographer would pause to capture the image of someone who is highly at risk, instead of immediately getting them care.

I’m currently studying journalism and as such I’ve taken an entire course dedicated to the ethics and laws that rule a journalist’s life and work. For every debate it came down to necessity vs. exploitation to encourage more people to view your pages and pick up your paper. With a simple story about the weather this image felt out of place, especially because the story has only one line about homelessness and not in an informative “this is how to help,” way, but instead says “under such conditions, the city focuses on helping homeless people off the streets.”

If there’s one thing this photo demonstrates, it’s that the city isn’t doing a very good job.

What do you think? Would you have taken this shot at all, let alone to go with a basic story about cold temperatures? Is it the media/photographer’s job to do something or just to tell the story in hopes of encouraging other people?

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More than Human

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This photo is part of the “More than Human” project, by photographer Tim Flach, who has created a collection of animal portraits that reveal the complex emotions of their animal subjects, as shown in the gallery above. The project is on exhibit between Dec. 5-22 at the Osborne Samuel Gallery in London. Below is an excerpt about the project (source).

 The new work reflects Tim’s current preoccupation with the contemporary relationship between humans and non-human animals, focusing on how we engage with them within the contexts of history, culture, politics and science. This will all come together in the new book, More than Human, due for publication in October 2012 with a launch and exhibition at the gallery. Through Tim’s unique vision and ability to challenge the viewer, he has created a series of images which encompass not only his personal beliefs, but the concepts common in modern and historical religious and cultural symbolism, the human obsession with ‘cuteness’, cross-breeding, the blurred line between human and animal genetic modification, conservation, morphology and plasticity. Tim brings the viewer into an unnatural proximity to his subjects, encouraging discussion on the human-animal boundary and attitudes towards non-human animals and the changing relationships, both literally and allegorically, between man and animal.

Tim Flach studied Communications Design at the North East London Polytechnic (1977–1980) and then Photography and Painted Structures at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design (1982–1983). On graduation he briefly assisted Brian Worth, but soon began to attract commissions and was working independently from 1983.

Bringing the viewer into close-up proximity with their animal subjects, paintstakingly lit, carefully cropped for maximum graphic impact and animated by telling gestures, Flach’s photographs place us in an intimate relationship with their protagonists. They are far removed from wildlife photography’s documentary images of animals observed in their natural habitat. In fact, the treatment accorded to these particular creatures is not dissimilar from the close encounters with individuals that are the stuff of human portraiture.

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Photo Challenge: Travel Photos

Our most recent photo theme was Travel Photos. We received some great photos from the Snapsort community – let us know what you think in the comments.

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Photo by Manuela Scotto. Taken during a walk to Greenwich village.

Thanks everyone who sent in travel photos! We’ll be running another photo challenge soon.

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Blast from the Past

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Spark trails from cannon blast captured at the Moorpark Civil War reenactment, sponsored by the Moorpark Rotary Club. Soldiers manning the cannon were silhouetted due to a large light behind them shining down on the battlefield. The large flood light made it possible to also see the smoke from the cannon blasts.

Out photo of the day is “Blast from the Past” (taken with a Canon 5D MK2, Canon 24-105 at 99mm, 1/5th sec at F5.6). Photographer Bob Jensen specializes in classic car photography, civil war reenactments and portraits, and nature photography, with a special emphasis on the world of insects. Looking through his 500px page, we found it hard to share just 1 photo, so we put together a gallery of a few of his photos.

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New Orleans Streetcar


Photo caption: This is a streetcar in New Orleans traveling back towards The Quarter on St. Charles Ave. I held the camera against the window sill, making sure to divide the image equally between the inside and the outside. Shot with a Nikon D700 at .8 sec @ f/20, ISO 400, Nikkor 18.0-35.0mm f/3.4-4.5 lens set at 23mm.

This photo was submitted to National Geographic’s 2012 Photo Contest (Places). Photographer Don Chamblee is 53 years old, and has enjoyed cameras all his life, but he didn’t start to get serious until college. Now, at 53 years old, he takes photos professionally and works in stock and fine art photos. You can read more about Don at his website.

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