I took a self portrait the other day, and ever since, I haven't stopped thinking about this...
I am privileged, and I recognize that.
If one is not a minority, I don’t think one is able to fully comprehend the real suffering minorities feel. We can have empathy, or experiences that allow us to somehow relate. But unless we are the ones to have gone through certain suffering or hardships, we don’t really have any idea just how impactful those situations can be.
I recognize that as a photographer, I am privileged, and as a photographer, I am showing you a privileged world.
There are two distinct drives in me. One is to help people. The other is to create. I’m learning that the creation part of me is a very personal part of me. It’s a creative process that I enjoy the most when it’s not done for money, but rather done in a way where the very core of me is able to come out and express exactly how I feel. Creating can be a very selfish process, but creating is what makes me live. I create because it makes me happy. I create because I hope it can inspire others. I create because maybe my story will help your story.
But I create knowing I create out of a place of privilege.
I’m white. I’ve been naturally slim my entire life and have never had to worry about my weight or what I eat. It’s weird to say I think I’m pretty because that implies I am vain. But I also feel weird saying I don’t always feel pretty because that implies I’m insecure or fishing for compliments. So I’ll just say, some days I feel pretty, other days I hate the fact that I only feel pretty if I’m wearing makeup, and still, other days, I love being a girl and playing with makeup and jewelry and clothes and all things girly. I’m middle class. I’ve been so damn broke I’ve had to ration the last pack of crackers in my cupboard, but yet I’ve always had a place to sleep at night. I always have clothes to wear. I’m most definitely middle class. I’m educated. I am working. I am healthy, able bodied. I’m a pretty normal person, but I recognize that I am privileged and my story, the one I show through photos, is a privileged one, too.
I do hope to show stories of others. I do hope that my photography helps people and inspires people. I do hope I am able to give other people a voice through my photos. I do hope that my photos can have more meaning then just being photos. I want them to genuinely capture the heart of other human beings. Human beings who are privileged and human beings who are not. Human beings who have suffered a lot.
But as for me and my personal work, I just feel it important to say that I recognize how privileged and fortunate I am. I don’t mean for my work to ever come across as shallow, or too white or too middle class or too happy or too whatever. My personal work is just the lens through which I look at things. It doesn’t represent society as a whole. My personal work doesn’t always represent other bodies or other feelings or other classes or other races or other anythings. It is the lens through which I am experiencing life. Or rather, it is the lens through which I am wanting to replicate of my own life.
I don’t want my work to exclude others. But I recognize that it may.
I can try my best to show other lenses, too. But it’s you who can show your lens the best. It’s you who can show the things you experience and feel and think and see, not me.
I’m not saying my life is perfect. But I know it is one that, compared to so many other parts of the world, is privileged. I’m trying to find a conclusion in all of this but I cannot. I just feel that as a feminist, I simply need to say that I recognize I am privileged. This is only my lens, and my lens is not true for everyone.
Show your lens, too.