I love taking other people’s photographs. By that I mean photographing people who are posing for someone other than myself. What seems so appealing about such shots is the way people present themselves as they want to be seen, or as best befits the moment, but with all their self-consciousness directed elsewhere, towards another lens. The posed moment thus becomes candid – like a still from a movie set. There is also a certain electricity in the fact that this is an exciting moment for them – a proof of concept; this was my dream, now here I am! Perhaps it’s a little nefarious, like a form of theft, but I counter that thought by reminding myself that I should only show them in a flattering or positive light – I’m certainly not interested in humiliating anyone.
This shot was taken just before the so-called Venice of Mykonos. V and I spent a wonderful three or so hours before sunset, drinking take-away beers and people-watching. As the afternoon wore on, countless tourists posed before this backdrop and had their photo taken. What was most noticeable was how seriously many of them took the whole process. Indeed, much of the time it was more photo-shoot than holiday snap, with people vogueing before the camera for numerous takes. In one case we were approached by a young south American couple (not the couple in the photo) who asked us to take their photo. They were perfectly nice when speaking to us, yet just prior to their approach we had watched them being shirty with each other as she posed while he took photographs. After the young man had taken a number of photos and had them checked, he was berated for not getting them right and it was at that point that they decided to seek outside help for a couple shot. I guess the need to drive everyone on Facebook wild with lust and jealousy was just too great to pass up, and nothing less than the most flattering shot would do.
One thing that really stood out during this whole trip was a seismic shift in how un-ironic people have become about their own vanity. No doubt this is an inevitable consequence of the spread of social media, but the fact is that what once might have been considered vain and pretentious is now par for the course. All through Greece and then later in Rome we witnessed this process – the long photo shoot with some of the most laughably un-ironic beauty poses. It was, I have to admit, mostly women being photographed, and the sincerity with which they approached the whole thing was unsettling. The constant checking and re-checking of the photos and then posing for more suggested a kind of desperation – a need for validation and status by showing off how attractive and fortunate they were to be, for example, posing in front of the Trevi Fountain. Perhaps there’s nothing to it – that it’s merely a shift in habit rather than in sense of self-importance – but if it is the latter, then heaven help us!