Part Two: Emotion in Photographs:
SHOW ME WHO YOU ARE
by Norm La Coe
To photograph you, to be photographed: What do we see? Learned motions, like a dance? Clothing from Gap or Dior? Body piercings by a local mechanic? Is that who we are when we photograph? Metal, piercings, clothing and perms? Are we merely mannequins?
When someone looks at us, WHO do they see?
Am I unique, a person?
Our world is full of man-made noise, man-made visuals, man-made motion. Cars, TVs, radios, traffic lights, an endless number of doors, flipping video images. What are we doing? More important, if we stop doing it, is anything left. Are we nothing more than the sum of our things, our movements and our noise?
Do we hunger for affirmation? Recognition? Intimacy?
Do we photograph each other so we can share, so we will not be alone?
What does she say?
When I say, “show me who you are,” she thinks, “I can’t. You won’t like me.”
She is afraid. She dares not let anyone know who she is.
To trust is to be used, plundered, betrayed and abandoned. To not trust is to be alone, forever alone. Two choices only, and both are terrible.
Dare she trust this man with a camera? Dare she show herself, her true feelings?
No, I will never show you who I am. You will not like me.
So if she photographs, she hides inside her Levi denim and Estee Lauder, gyrating like she saw in music video, wearing the plastic smile she learned from Cosmo covers.
Then a photographer says to her, “show me who you are.” She
barely hesitates, then answers, “Yes.”
And she wonders, as she has wondered a million times before: Why me? Why was I born bad? How do I stop being bad? Does everyone know? What do I look like to other people? What if I were not a victim? What if I hadn’t been born bad? Who would I be?
Is it better to be born bad, or be nobody? Is it time to find my peace in oblivion?
It’s hard for her. She surrenders up her everyday identity, her clothes. She gives up her everyday talismans, her jewelry. Why can’t I even wear my ring?
Now she stands, wearing nothing but the light. She asks, “what do you want me to do.” She wants to be told how to pose.
The man with the camera won’t tell her. He confuses her by saying: “show me who you are. Show me what you feel.”
And she says, “help me. Tell me what to do.”
And he says, “no. I won’t tell you how to imitate what someone else has done. You are unique. Show me who you were ten thousand years ago, when there was no other world than grass and trees, wind and light, and you.”
I call this “the threshold of intimacy,” because at this point, she is most aware of her body as part of her personhood. She expresses her feelings through her body. At the threshold of intimacy, the feelings she expresses are real. Beyond that threshold, she conceals her feelings, plays a dehumanized plastic role. We see a body, but no one is home.
This woman should be precisely as bare as feels right to her, to make the most powerful image. Reveal more, she becomes uncomfortable and represses feelings. Reveal less, and she remains hidden. It doesn’t matter if she hasn’t take off her shirt, if she’s at the threshold of intimacy for herself. An image of one woman with an unbuttoned shirt can be more powerful than one of another woman fully nude. Some women, even fully nude, do not reveal feelings that communicate real truth.
Every woman is unique in her feelings about her body.
It need not be said, I’ll say it anyhow. When she’s at her threshold of intimacy with her feelings open, you never hassle her about anything. And you protect her with your life.
He will share these images with others, and everyone will know
I am a daughter of God and the universe, and I have an absolute right to my place on this earth.
Look at me! THIS is who I am.