January 8th, 2017
How is documentary photography any different from other careers that do indeed capitalize on other aspects of life? If capitalizing on other people’s varying degrees of life is wrong, why is it okay to write anthropological books? Both documentary photographers and anthropological writers critically document the world around them. And as far as I can tell there is no restriction to the anthropological world on what is “okay” and “not okay” to study. Syd, the person who showed us around the port area this morning (my writing is getting all jumbled up now) “doesn’t take credit” for her (I am assuming Syd is a female and will refer to her as a her for ease of writing—I recognize I am not sure of his or her gender identity) impact on uncovering and telling the world how abhorrent slavery was in Rio and the long-term effects that are still evident in all facets of life in the city. Her whole life has been devoted to studying and exposing that injustice—and she was going to write a book about to make money. She isn’t just taking a snapshot of horrific wrongdoings in a sliver of time, in or out of context, but instead detailing every nuance she can find and then interjecting her thoughts and opinions (although highly educated) with all of her work she has produced. Take her tour today for example—it was riddled so intensely with her specific personal ideas and opinions that Erika could not have her own opinion without being wrong. For arguments sake, now think about the photos that were featured in the New Blacks museum. They are images that were printed out after staging and photographing a scene of Legos. I do admit and recognize that the artist behind the camera had a specific intent when producing his or her work, but the photos themselves would have no definitive meaning without the context the artist chooses (or chooses not) to provide alongside the image and, most importantly, the interpretation of the viewer. Why is one form of art, don’t forget writing or even public speaking is an art, more exploitative than others? Writing and speaking are so pointed that there is little room for wavering around ideas. With them, everything has to be so explicit to successfully convey ideas with their intended meanings. But I see that the beauty of the visual arts, including photography, is that option to be vague that so many disciplines lack.
I’ll get off my soap box.
By now it’s January 12th—you know what that means. Leaving day. I’m in the airport sitting in a food court with Emily, Alex, Tom, and John (who is somewhere). He just got back. He has a gnarly looking sandwich in hand. He’s plowed through it in only seconds. Some of the other gang is arriving, too. We just saw Kelsy, Parker, and Daryl wander in. It took us a few seconds to flag them down. John and I are traveling together tonight. I lucked out big time. Thankfully, as I concluded earlier in this journal, I scream to the heavens that I am American so I haven’t encountered too many problems with a language barrier. My Spanish helped me a lot more than I thought it would, which was admittedly very low expectations to begin with, but I could read menus a little bit and I was beginning to be able to decipher what John and Caren were saying to some people—I still couldn’t pick up on Erika’s Portuguese most of the time! Haha!
The biggest struggle I have had in Brazil has by far been with the airports. After shuffling around for twenty minutes in the B terminal of whatever airport this is in (in Rio), I was told and read myself three different gates for one flight. I had the same thing happen to me in Sao Paulo! It is terrifying! I spotted John walking by and howdy-doed him to get his attention. He was definitely equally distressed as me about the game of hopscotch our gate is playing. I just remembered something, too! When I was trying to fly into Rio from the Sao Paulo airport (which I have now complained about three times, the gate did the same thing. The flight was a hodgepodge of different airlines the first time around, and it is now, too! I shared this idea with John yet. He’s a little intimidating to travel with—#2 because I can’t always remember what I’m supposed to do when I check in and that is very shameful to admit in front of a seasoned travel vet #2 he seems very edgy when he travels. Whateves. We have a long time of traveling together to think that through.