The Photographer’s Contract

November 23, 2016 § Leave a comment


I haven’t taken a single film photo in November yet. There has been some, even if faint, inviting afternoon winter light on a couple of days, but I lacked the energy and motivation to pick my camera and take a walk. In times when historical developments take place, especially depressive ones, a single person often loses the faith in the purpose or the influence of her own doings. Too small, I am, too irrelevant, what I do, too weak, my voice, one thinks. But we know we must eventually recover.

For no reason at all, or for all reasons of the world and some of those above, I kept thinking of a snapshot I took last summer while I was taking a beautiful afternoon walk with my sister around Plato’s Academy Park in Athens, a place full of traces of its historical importance but also still very much of a recreation centre for the inhabitants of the area.

On that warm July afternoon, the park was full of people walking about, chatting with each other, and several groups of kids and teenagers, either playing together or hanging out with their peers. I took photos of some of those youths, as the way kids move or interact with each other in groups is something always beautiful to watch: natural, surprising and refreshing.

I took this particular photo when I noticed the interaction between the teenage boy and the girl in the foreground: the boy playfully pulling the girl’s hair, probably clumsily expressing that way his interest in her, as boys often do in that age. Is that ever to change, I thought, rather amused and not really alarmed by the situation, could we ever teach our boys otherwise?

Only later, at home, when I took a more careful look at that sequence of photos I saw that I had actually documented a more severe act of violence. In the background a little boy, maybe my son’s age, was held onto the ground, being brutally punched by an older boy. An even closer look gave me the certainty¬†that the fight was not a game and that the other boys had run towards the scene only to stand around as spectators.

I don’t know how everything ended for that young guy: if he was seriously hurt, or if someone helped him in the end, because by that time I had walked on, clueless of what I had just not witnessed.

I think of that photo feeling a bit powerless, but also not without a sense of guilt. How well do I see what I see? How can I see faster, understand faster, help faster?

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