SP on SP … sexual perversion and street photography.

 6th January, 2011.

Succumbing ever so often to the suggestive city-scape
Photograph - Andrew Stark
“The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust”   - Susan Sontag.

I guess you could describe me as having  being a tad hot and bothered the other evening when in an act of abject idleness I flicked through Andrew Stark’s largely unreadable tome … Escaping Into Life: a psycho study of the contemporary street photographer (yeah I know, this is getting ridiculously schizoid). I’d never actually gotten past the opening chapters of the book before this particularly barren, latish hour and had kind of assumed that the guy’s research was both flimsy and benignly dry. I was spot on with the former, however became quite outraged as I read the following scandalous slight on all clean living: happily monogamous, church going, Little House on the Prairie following sidewalk enthusiasts. – And I quote … 

  So maybe, just perhaps street photographers are not as humbly humanitarian as we so regularly make out. Rather, chasing the unsuspecting; partaking in a covert form of grubby pseudo stalking, feverishly driven toward a shutter released, voyeuristic climax. Images taken free of authority: a clearly outrageous violation of foreign physicality. We thrust relentlessly the cold, clinical, calibrated lens: that rock hard metaphorical extension of longing into the personal space of our randomly selected prey. The pursuit is endless. A tenuous conduit to genuine connection: a longing which can never be fully quenched… 
And let’s face it; everything in life ultimately leads back to sex.
So why not street photography?
Our planetary path is littered by the hedonistic refuse of ‘the act’, both real and simulated. Those not having sex are certainly thinking about it … and those not thinking about it are either fibbing through jagged incisors, or are stuck home watching Oprah as she lays it on with a widelux trowel. So given the premise that,

  “Everything in life, ultimately leads back to sex”.          - Andrew Stark (3 sentences ago)

Then yes, street photography may well be a subtle, slightly perverted form of self abuse. Freudian analysis would suggest a submissive sexual role is being assumed. A small, non threatening tool used in a wholly non controlling, almost benign manner. Are we not simply waiting to be beaten by a dominatrixian public? For in much the same way as neighborhood joggers have been shown to huff and puff on the semi orgasmic endorphin high; street photographers are wandering big city streets raising the Leica to the eye whenever they feel the highly charged urge to be caught; to be shamed, and ultimately to be punished. And to further intensify this self flagellatory performance, a small 35mm souvenir is garnered from each encounter, held up as the sole purpose of a lascivious and highly camouflaged craft. “


What was the true motivation of this image ?
Photograph - Andrew Stark

Stalkers yeah!
   He’s dead set calling us a bunch of randy bunny boilers.  
I was cranky. 
I mean as if street photographers aren’t already having a hard enough time in the perception stakes, we certainly don’t need scurrilous claptrap leaking from within our own traditionally meek and mild ranks. 
And with perspiration dripping profusely from a painfully enlarged Indignant Gland, I jumped swiftly onto the electro mail super highway and fired off a terse – Please Explain … using the very latest in Truly Toxic Font Types, the clipped bluey, Pauline Hansen Extra Bold.

Within hours of my spleen venting, a cryptic response was forthcoming, it read –

“Ha ha, Nowhere Man please keep your pants on and stop being so obviously overt. Let me answer your concerns by highlighting the work of the philosopher and writer Nigel Warburton, who on his excellent blog “Art & Allusion” refers to Freuds “The Interpretation of Dreams” At one point in his treatise, the master psychologist (Freud) describes a young agoraphobic woman who dreams of walking in the street wearing a straw hat. This young lass feels that the buffed and tanned local tri-athlete she passes in the street cannot possibly harm her despite the fulsome quiver and aggressive leer radiating his most manly persona. Now this basic, plot based recount is the manifest context of her dream. However Freud  explains that a sub text or latent content flows like hot lava below - a dream within a dream if you will - that screams of sexual temptation; her straw hat a phallicly symbolic accoutrement that protects her magically from herself. Freud concludes their session amusingly by informing the woman that if she had in fact a husband or a casual suitor with such splendid genitals she need fear nothing from heavily perspiring tri-athletes … adding with a wink, "would you perhaps care to discuss the matter further over coffee and cake".

Now Mr Nowhere Man, all I’m suggesting in drawing your attention to this somewhat convoluted analogy  is that by swapping a straw hat for a rangefinder, factoring in the Cartesian difficulty with differentiating dreams from reality and walla-whoooska … triathletes, genitals, reciprocity failure – it’s all there buddy”    


OK, I'm not even touching this one.
Photograph - Andrew Stark
 Lounging back into the wonky Jason Recliner I found my anger had dissipated somewhat, oozing down to a cool, sandy point somewhere off and beyond Terrigal Beach. It was 2AM and all the sane people were asleep. My girlfriend’s cerise coloured slipperettes warmed my oft cramped arches as I sipped on herbal and nibbled the neediest corner of an Iced Vovovian treat. Staring wistfully up at mosaically fashioned walls within my cramped and secret subterranean shelter, their endless patchwork of glossy 6x4s revealing darkly – the ongoing and clandestine series, “Schoolgirls Who Sit in the Park - Shot Surreptitiously from the Hip”.

A straightened elbow and a cocked wrist are all that
seperate shooting from the hip and all out 'upskirting'.
Photograph - Andrew Stark
I contemplated earnestly.
For as unsavoury as the tone had become,
I reasoned ...
perhaps the guy had a point.

“The words of the prophets are written on the subway  walls, and tenement halls, and whispered in the sound of silence
                                         - Paul Simon      

1 comment:

jophilippe said...

“The possession of a camera can inspire something akin to lust”

Edwards Weston said something similar decades ago, and it was from a self-reference perspective of a practitioner.

Though not a streeter himself he might have had a good point too...