On public spaces & photography…

(originally published June 23, 2007)

I attended a voodoo hurricane protection ceremony this evening.

Having never witnessed this religion in action, and being a firm believer in people coming together to effect positive change, I donned all white for the day, constructed an offering for Madame Laveau, cut out of the Square early, and Jay, Shara (my new, lovely, short-term tenant) and I headed over to Bayou St. John to add our well wishes.

It was lovely to see the crowd gather at dusk at the center of the bridge, resplendent in white, each cradling their offerings: liquor, hair ribbons, gourds, candles, jeweled clips, cakes, even a watermelon. The hypnotic drumming, Marie’s veve carefully drawn in yellow powder on the slats of the bridge, the call & response singing in french, the ritualistic dance. I dropped my shoulders, loosened my hips, watched with enthusiasm & respect, for while the religion is not my own, I appreciate honest, beautiful worship with my whole heart.

Until.

Until, all the wanna-be documentarians, with their cameras and their flashes & their camcorders and their cel-phones began flashing away, despite the priestess’ request at the beginning of the ritual that they not. One bastard with a shoulder cam the size of my torso pushed me our of his way and actually leaned in between the drummers, impeding them so HE could get a better shot of the alter.

These dipshits seemed to think that a recording device gives them carte blanche, and I was disgusted. Imagine me coming into a church or a synagogue during a memorial service, running around behind the rabbi with my camera, pushing my mike into his face, or darting around the congregation to zoom in on the poignant expression of a bereft husband.

Yeah. Disgusted doesn’t begin to cover it.

SO disgusted that I left early, because I could feel my energy becoming increasingly negative, and I did NOT want to add that flavor to the ritual. I wanted to stay throughout, thank the folks who put it together, relay a message for an acquaintance to the priestess.

I used to think that the 3rd world folks who dislike having their pictures taken were foolish, backwards. I have seen the error of my ways, and apologize silently in the face of their wisdom. My life has been inundated with fucktards with cameras. In the Square, I have been forced to put up a sign: “Taking pictures of artwork is the same as stealing it.” Yes – I have had cameras aimed right at my paintings, and when I’ve asked them to stop have been attacked with “It’s a public place!”

At shows, I have had jerks in elevators snap multiple pictures of me 5 inches from my face, even when I’ve screamed “NO! NO!” On the rare occasion when someone ASKS to take my picture and I politely decline, I’ve gotten the response – “Well, if you didn’t want your picture taken, why would you dress like that?”

Yes officer, I deserved to be raped. My skirt was too short.

I don’t play in public the way I once did because I’ve seen those pix splattered across the net. I hate curtailing my lifestyle, but my moments of pain or delight or ecstasy are not for your family album, they’re for ME.

People, PUT AWAY THE DAMNED CAMERAS. Your owning a piece of equipment does not make you an artist or a photojournalist or a documentarian. Live your lives, experience the moment, and please, please, stop forcing the rest of us to be the unwilling victims of your two-bit reality shows.

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