Friday, March 26, 2010

Smile for the camera. Or don't.

The picture attached to this NYT article made me wonder:

Photography, as artificial representations of humans, must be a contentious issue in Islam, right? Or is it as black and white as the Amish stance? I am unfortunately ignorant on this and wikipedia isn't loading for whatever I don't know what is true!

Then I thought about the other day, when I went into a Russian Orthodox Church. There were people all around, and some looking at me, and I crossed myself in the Russian Orthodox way (right shoulder first), even though I was raised Catholic (left shoulder first) and...well. Was that sign-mimicry disrespectful to my own identity or to the community of believers I was approaching when I entered the building?

I don't think so. It was, rather, a non-verbal communication act that "I understand this is appropriate to do in this situation." How can we toe that line, between appropriateness and cultural plagiarism? If I don't believe that my camera is stealing your soul and you don't see me taking your photo, am I allowed to take it, or will you still think your soul is stolen? Conversely, if I think that people are giving up their souls when they pose for photos...well. I don't even know how to end that sentence.


Monica said...

When you take a photo, you're taking a photo of their bodies not their souls. Your soul is something precious that stays inside of you and no one can take a photo of that. So go ahead and click away (you could always ask first), their souls will be protected.

Just my 2 cents :)

Stacey said...

I think your response was spot on. It's a hard line to negotiate though.

At my friend's grandmother's funeral last week, Wer and I weren't sure if he should wear the funeral home's yarmulke since he's not Jewish. We decided on no. But at the gravesite, it felt right to attempt the Hebrew in the Mourner's Kaddish to say it with everyone. I think we played it right, but who knows?