Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Search for Understanding

Its good to know that people are still reading papers... its not so good when the only way you know they are reading them is because they called the paper to complain about your photo.
Jacksonville hosts this really awesome event on every Sunday for a month or so, called the Summer Jazz Sessions. It is outdoors, totally free, you can bring beverages (of your choosing) and get to hear... as you guessed it, great Jazz music. My mission was to shoot people having fun. Easy, right? Eh, a little more challenging than I thought. The area was filled with tons of people sitting in chairs, but I wanted to make something more than a point and shoot crowd shot. I searched around for interesting people, and things that I thought were visually interesting. Halfway into my shoot I got called away for a breaking news piece, so I had to call my shoot short.
One of the really interesting people that I met was Mr. Thompson. He and his friend drove an hour and a half just to come to the Jazz show. In the times of our gas prices, I consider that dedicated! So I chose to take a few frames of him, he was just sitting on the boardwalk to the ocean, where you could still hear the music from the Pavilion from behind... something that I thought was more visual than the sea of fold-out chairs.
Something else that I have had in the back of my mind when I shoot to, is the perception of people. Not that it is my place to edit the world to my liking, but in a way, as editors we do select what we want to show... hopefully because it is something important, visually interesting, and a slice of life in our community.
Also, in case you haven't heard, Jacksonville is the most crime crazy city in Florida... yes, Miami Vice is going to have to go "Jacksonville Vice"... doesn't really ring does it? Unfortunately, a lot of the crime reported often involves someone who is African-American. So when I go out to a shoot fun events, among the things I look for are racial diversity.
To make a long story short, through my narrow edit, and an editors unlucky pick, we caused a minor racial perception uproar.
“An absolutely disgusting photo,” said (removed), a lady originally from California said. This lady felt like we were enforcing the southern stereotype.
“I was shocked to see the main photo representing the festivities was of an older African American man who was missing most of his teeth,” she said. “There were thousands of other people in attendance who better represented the crowd. As an African American, myself, I feel insulted,” (another removed name) said.
So after we received these phone calls, several members of the T-U staff were asked their opinion.
“I think this is another case in which what comes off as original and flavorful to a white person comes off as stereotypical and degrading to black people,” said a columnist who writes about race-related topics.
Sigh. I just don't know what to think. I mean, the columnist is right. I thought Mr. Thompson, was just a cool guy, who drove an hour and a half to come to this show. I didn't mean any disrespect to him, or the community. I feel awful in a way. I just don't know what to think about it.

1 comment:

Rebecca Barnett said...

I think that's awful you got all that crap for your photo, which I think is great.