Having listened to both Wasma Mansour’s interview about her “Single Saudi Women” project and Dalia Khamissy’s interview about her work “The Missing”, ‘which focuses on the 17,000 people who went missing during the 1975 -1990 Lebanese civil war.’ (Phonar). I realise that our work as photographers is so important; we need to add something to the debates of the world. Our works can bring changes, and raise awareness.
It is imperative that we show our subjects story how they want to show it. It is the collaborative part of the work that makes it successful. Mansour shows a Polaroid print to her subject whilst shooting, asking them about how they would like to be shown and what degree of visibility they are comfortable with. This is particularly important in Saudi Arabia as women do not reveal their identities to the public; therefore it was important for her to talk to her subjects and ask about what they were comfortable with. As a photographer we have to gain our subjects trust. I believe that collaborating with your subject allow for a deeper level of trust. This reminds me of Anthony Luvera’s assisted self portraits.
Mansour used a credible witness by proxy, by having someone to talk to the subjects and vouch for her the trust relationship developed from there. I realise that meeting subjects in a neutral place, such as a coffee shop at first may be a good place to start. Mansour believes in talking about the project in this neutral place and then waiting to be welcomed to the subject’s homes. As a photographer we should allow the participants to talk and share their story and after we have heard their story the photography comes afterwards. Our photography is always linked to the triad relationship of the photographer, subject and audience. We have to be careful not to miss-represent the story of our subject. We should prioritise the participant, letting them lead.
Dalia Khamissy understands the context of living in a war zone; in photography context is key. Khamissy has lived through the civil war in Lebanon. She believes that Photography is about your personal research; this links to Tod Papageorge” If your photographs aren’t good enough, your not reading enough”.
Khamissy wanted to tell the stories of people. “The Missing” project was a collaborative project with the mothers. Telling the story of the missing is a difficult story to tell. The people who are behind the civil war are still in power; could this put the subjects and her in a difficult situation? The narrative of the civil war hasn’t yet been written yet, they cannot teach it, because they haven’t decided yet. She is trying to use the narrative as a nature for change; she wants the people of Lebanon and the outside to see this; this links to how Fred Ritchin sees the role of photography, as a tool for change.
Khamissy’s advice to photographers was to know that as photographers we should feel privileged. We are privileged that this person is letting us tell their stories. We should show respect for the people we are documenting. It is so important to tell the story as it is. I shall take away all of these lessons from both Khamissy and Mansour and use their advice in my work.