I like seeing things through new eyes (my camera) and through old eyes (my own -- which are in desperate need of contacts). The view through a lens is remarkable. You are given the opportunity to see things in a new way -- framed and hanging on the wall. You find yourself with a new perspective on life; you pay attention to details that you would never notice in the course of a day. It takes hours to drive from one destination to the next because you stop along the way taking photos of things that you glimpsed from your window. You run off the road, sometimes scraping a mailbox or clipping a fence (or two), because you are staring at something you want to turn around and take a photo of. You stop people on the street to ask if you can take their picture. You annoy people in their homes when you knock on their door to ask permission to take a photo of a leaf you spied in their front yard.
As a photographer, you find yourself visiting places you would not normally visit. For instance, a couple of years ago, I did a documentary photography project on inmates. A friend who works for the Jefferson County Sheriff's department helped me go where no woman has gone before (at least not as a visitor)....into an all male county jail. I had the opportunity to interview, without the safety of plexiglass and a telephone, five inmates. I sat in a cell with each one for a chat and photograph. Two murderers, one drug dealer, one assaulter (he almost beat a man to death for money) and one who wrote bad checks. It was a very interesting mix of men...men that you would never believe could be or should be behind bars, except one.....the drug dealer, who, for the sake of propriety, we will call Leon.
Leon, in his interview, kept telling me "the man" owed him something. That it was "the man's" fault he had to deal drugs to survive. He couldn't get a job because of "the man" and "the man" always sent him home broke each time he left prison (not his first stint in the big house, obviously). I informed Leon that "the man" (which I assumed was the government) didn't owe him anything, that it was his responsibility to make his own way in life, to work to earn a decent living and not blame others for his shortcomings (I was brave in my speaking because an armed sheriff was right outside the door and I figured he could draw his pistol before Leon could stab me with the "shiv" he made from a shoelace cap. Apparently, Leon learned many skills from watching reruns of McGyver.) When I left, Leon and I were not friends, which was okay. I don't think it's a good idea to be friends with drug dealers, as they always draw you into their drama and, eventually, your own stint in the big house. However, it was an interesting experience. I've posted a few photos from "my jail days". Incidentally, I was told that I could not photograph their faces because their rights had to be protected. My response, "What rights? They gave up their rights when they changed their name to a number". As you can see, I was forced to comply.
I'm just sayin',