The New Photographic Other


General Photography

Here is a crazy (or maybe not so crazy) thought I had the other day, sitting in a crit, listening to somebody talking about “the other”: As photographers, we love to think of ourselves as being incredibly aware of that problem. We love to think that if there’s one thing we need to avoid it is to picture someone or a group as “the other”. And there are very good reasons for that. The thought I had: We’re still doing it, though. There still is “the other” in photography. Politically correct as we are, the way a group is turned into “the other” has changed, though. Instead of us treating a group as “the other” and thus separating them from our own group it now works the other way around: There are those who for whatever reason decide they don’t want to be part of our group, and it is those groups that we can - and in fact happily will - depict as the other. As someone pointed out to me, the currently most prominent such group might be the (US) Tea Party, whose resentment-based politics makes them a pretty easy and simple target. Unlike in the case of the earlier other - where “the other” had no say in being excluded - exclusion now works to cement the view points of both sides: The Tea Party sees the way it is being treated photographically as confirmation of their ideas, whereas we get photographic confirmation that they’re crazy (see, for example, the kerfuffle around the latest Michelle Bachman cover).