Surrender Your Gaze
Surrender Your Gaze – Blindfolded Photographer portrait series
As you walk through the city it is common to see people, from tourists to enthusiasts, carrying cameras, on the look out for something to photograph. Standing in wait on Ramillies Street, an urban clearing unexpectedly found via a narrow alleyway off Oxford Street, I stop such individuals as they pass by. I ask them if I can make their portrait, but on one condition: that they wear a blindfold.
I’m simply asking each stranger to momentarily surrender their gaze, to stand with black fabric covering their eyes as if it was a lens cap. Paradoxically, in order to make the image I am asking the photographer to disengage from the act of looking.
There is a black humour in the thought of capturing a photographer standing against a wall wearing a blindfold, as it gives the impression of someone about to be shot. Which, in a manner of speaking, is what I’m doing.
Much of the everyday language used to describe photography has a hostile tone. Common phrases such as ‘take a picture’ and ‘stop and shoot’ place the photographer in the position of agressor; indeed, photographers can be guilty of being inconsiderate, even invasive, for the sake of a good shot. My objective however, isn’t to commit an agressive act, but to show that a portrait is a result of a conversation between photographer and subject, that power is not exclusively in the hands of either.
In On Photography, Susan Sontag writes, ‘What… photographers do cannot of course be characterized either as simply predatory, and essentially benevolent.’
Beyond alluring analogies and metaphors, the experience has lead to interesting social encounters with people from all over the world. It may appear that I’m in a position of control, but without willing participants I wouldn’t be able to make the work.