I have just finished a research project on how the camera affects the subject while the photographer tries to document it, this is a piece on truth that I wrote about two years ago.
The grey bristling form of pachydermic bulk stopped its away ward walking sway, but too soon for a correction on my part as I came up abruptly against the rear end of a circus elephant. My senses were filled with the truth of its form and smell as only possible when confronted physically with the arse end of an elephant.
I could rather deal with the form and smell of many things, I could choose a rose garden or a cheque in my favour.
I cannot pretend that I am smelling roses and the texture is not of bankers paper but hard bristles and raw smells of the rear end of a circus elephant. I am engulfed in a world of rank smell and texture that I can vouch for and write of in the first hand.
My perspective causes me to waive on the realities of the wisdom of the species, that its known that they have a sense of community, and that they care communally for the well being of their collective young. It’s not the candy coloured face, the soft eyes and gold coloured tusks with silk drapes and painted toe nails that I am confronted with!
The pressing facts are that if I do not back up like I should have done sooner, perhaps not looked on at the passing parade, I will find myself pressed down with a vegetable rich deposit too. I do not feel the need to get out my phone and snap an image in confirmation of the reality of my position.
It’s a truth that if you cross a road in rush hour traffic, the chances of breaking legs or worse are high, but it’s not an absolute certainty that it will happen, the reality of tombolo or casino comes into play and you must take your chance and make a move across the lanes filled with oncoming cars.
The certainty of my personal interaction with Nellie the Elephant is also based on chance, if you don’t watch where you walk in the circus ground, its true that the chances of touching base with a circus animal are high. It’s true too that the reality of that interaction can differ depending on the direction of travel of my self and that of Nellie – It was not the soft eyes, gold tusks, silk drapes and painted toes. It was not the communal caring pachydermic herd with lots of little one gambolling in and out of the caring elders either. It was the truth of the working waste disposal unit side of a member of the lesser Indian Pachyderm.
I am a photojournalist by practice, I make my images out of what is around me at the time, I research my material I go in with knowledge of my story, I can plan to an extent, I can ensure that I am where I want to be to tell a story, the technology of the camera and commitment on my part to not to structurally alter the form of the image ensures that a truth will emerge.
No matter the planing and effort to be at the right place at the right time, tombolo will always come into play. People do not always act or do something as expected, it’s often wasted effort to hold out for “The Shot” often its the unexpected image that says so much. The resulting images are often a surprise and the truth searched for shows up in ways unexpected – while I continue to push at the subject and frame image by image a reality of the truths before me will begin to emerge.
Truth is a funny thing, we know it to be, and there are many truths out there, but its in our approach that we will see truth differently, and its in the collection of those truths that the whole picture will in the end emerge.
God bless Nellie the Elephant, may all her quirks be recorded for ever after and may we as the viewers be always open to the many different aspects of her colourful, glorious, caring and also somewhat rank reality.