Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photographic obligation: photos of Akron

A photographer has an obligation to look when others might look away.

A camera can be as good as a weapon, used to gather evidence. Anymore, it seems like we're always on camera and not just from surveillance. Most all cell phones have cameras in them, and most of us have cell phones. And then there's people, like me, who walk around with a camera strapped around their neck nearly everyday. It's come in handy: the other day, some construction workers were harassing me as I walked downtown from high up on a scaffold, laughing as they taunted me. I happened to have my Canon with me (nice play on words there), and simply looked up at them, asked who they worked for and started shooting. Pictures that is. They stopped laughing quickly.

Not only do we put ourselves out there, looking when others would shy away, a photographer simultaneously hides behind a lens.

It's still difficult for me to get past the voyeuristic aspect of photography - the willingness to look unabashedly at subjects - even after nearly twenty years of shooting. It seems rude, intrusive. What if I'm caught looking? Because, let's face it, photography is intrusive. How many times have we shied away from a camera when it's pointed at us?

These middle schoolers weren't shy in front of my lens: they asked me to take their picture after the Aeros game here

I have started browsing downtown more and more, pointing my camera at various things and people. For years, I didn't see the point to celebrating where I came from, and many seem to agree: what's to celebrate about Akron? For the longest time, the answer seemed to be "nothing."

Random graffiti downtown

But where you come from is worth celebrating - just for the simple fact that it's where you come from. After all, Akron has Chrissie Hynde, Devo, Goodyear, Lebron...

And Amanda Boyd.

Amanda works at a little diner I go to at least once a week for their yummy arugula salads and grilled cheese sandwiches. When I see her, I automatically think of these lines from a great song: I know this bar with a jukebox full of medicine, and Christmas lights around a clouded'll probably find Grace, her shift starts at happy hour. She's got this sweet face, easy as tea leaves to read...

Amanda is one of those people who I encounter frequently who I don't really know, but I like in an easy, graceful sort of way. Like the lady who makes my cappuccinos at the Susan's Coffee and Tea. Like the Homeless Walt Whitman who walks downtown talking to himself.

This is where I come from. And these are the people and places I encounter, thankfully, on my short journey through my days...

Lydia's Bar

An Akron icon: the Peanut Shoppe



Zoey's dad, Blue

If I see you, say hello. And don't be shy in front of my lens. I promise, it's a friendly lens.


  1. I needed to hear this today. I'm going home to Texas this weekend, and I'd like to celebrate where I come from, too. I'm inspired now to bring my camera and get up close and personal. In the one photojournalism class I took in college, we were required to use a 50 mm lens because the prof said it forced us to have a relationship with our subject. I've never forgotten that. I really like how your relationships show up in your work. The middle schoolers shot was fantastic. I have a soft spot for that age group because they so often get a bad rep. Your photo really caught the range of emotions and personalities. Just lovely!

  2. Thank you Kathleen! I really appreciate your comments and following along.


Please leave comments - I always love reading them! namaste!