Ok, so you might be asking yourself what the hell me, and you, being racist could have to do with photography, and no doubt you've already counted all your "foreign" friends on your fingers to prove you definitely can't be racist. And of course your second cousin married that Asian girl who you really get along with and even once went shopping with, so you DEFINITELY....ONE MILLION PERCENT can't be racist. But I'm about to fuck with your whole understanding, or lack of understanding, of race in humanity in this one little blog.
Hear me out....
First up, let me make my background perfectly clear. I was born in London 35 years ago to a Spanish mother and an Egyptian father. So I wouldn't class myself as "White", I'd class myself more as an Olive-y skinned Spanish looking sorta dude or "Other" on most application forms. I think I look much more Spanish than Egyptian and definitely relate more to my Spanish side than the Egyptian or even English for that matter, but the point is, I'm not White White and I've always classed myself as a Londoner rather than English (but let's leave Brexit out of this shall we?).
Think back to those early days of primary school, around years 4, 5 and 6. The teacher asks the barely listening class, "Who's heard of Africa?". As you continue to pick your nose and wipe it on your chair leg, the teacher projects a photo onto the wall of malnourished young African child with a pot belly and his modesty covered only by a torn rag. Shoe-less and dusty the boy stands by a filthy puddle in the middle of the desert holding a plastic container you're told he uses to carry home water from that very same filthy puddle.
"What do you know about India?" she asks.
A young girl across the room raises her hand as high as she can and proudly shouts "My family is from India!". The teacher smiles at her and says "AHH! Fantastic! Have you ever been to India to visit your family?".
The teacher turns to the wall, presses her magical gizmo and... "Here... This is India" she announces.
But the young girl across the room looks saddened and confused by what she sees, because the image on the wall both looks exactly like her, yet nothing like her at all. The girl on the wall stares back at her but she's sad. Again she's wearing rags and stands amongst other unkempt girls her age, washing her face in a river being urinated in by cattle. The image screams poverty and desperation and you can almost smell the sewage as you can't help but count the flies on the little girls face.
"Who knows how far India is from London?" She asks scanning the room of blank faces. "India is over FOUR THOUSAND miles away!".
"Four thousand" your little 5 year old mind thinks. Wow, that's like the same as a million billion isn't it?
She spins the plastic globe and her finger lands far far away on a shape you've never seen before. A land you know nothing about. People you just can't see anything you relate to.
"Omar Shaker... You are half Egyptian, have you ever been to Egypt?"
My eyes bulge with anticipation and a smile takes control of my face because no, I had never been to Egypt but I knew I was about to find out what it was like. Half of me. Half of my soul.
"This is Egypt!" she says as she points her bony finger to the wall. Instant confusion runs through my mind because everything I'd been told about Egypt so far, must have been a lie.
I was told of structures that brought you wonder and amazement, and a city filled with riches. I was told that civilization began there and it was home to the most incredible works the human hand have ever been known to create. I was told some of the smartest people to ever have lived were from there, and I should be proud it's a part of my history. But all I see projected on the wall is a man in a funny long shirt and funny little hat, stood in the middle of the desert pulling along his Camel. Not my skin colour, not dressed like me and looks nothing like the people in the photos my father showed me. No riches. No amazement. Nothing to be proud of. Nothing to relate to.
So today I sit in front of my TV and yet again another small village in Africa cries out for help. The boy on the screen wearing those same faithful rags, dusty and shoe-less, carrying that same old bucket on his never-ending hike for dirty water, I wonder why it's so easy for me to flick the TV to another channel? I wonder why when BBC News shows a Syrian neighborhood bombed to rubble with that man holding his dead child as he screams in a language that means nothing to me, I can sip my coffee and glance up to the clock to see how long before my favorite program starts. I remember those days I was shown that these people were nothing like me and told they lived in a totally different world. A "third world". Not my world.
So yes I have loved ones from all different nations, colours and creeds. And yes I tell myself I see everyone as equal and love sees no colour, but...
If you've become as desensitised to the pains and realities of the world as I have, by images you've seen a million billion times, and you can flick that channel instead of realising we are all one, should be treating each other as one and every single living soul deserves a decent life, then I'm sorry to say it, but You are just... As racist... As me.
What Makes An Artist
Ok so i’ve been in the creative fields for a long time now, from acting to film production to obviously doing what I mainly do now…Photography. Yet it was only a few months ago that I began to call myself an “Artist”. And the reason was simple…
I had spent quite a while shooting more glamour based images, such as this
To me, it’s a very sexy, classy, beautiful shot of a stunning girl, Ella Cole. It’s simple, nothing flashy, a little sultry (which is my style) and I think in the whole, is defo one to be shown off.
One evening, sitting at my laptop as usual, editing images and uploading them to various websites, a friend (who shall remain nameless) commented under one of my images.
The comment was a very long attack on the subjects of my work. Not a personal attack on them, but on me for choosing them.
Her issue was that i only used “Beautiful” models. And I never shot “Normal” people. The comment went on to say that I should stop doing what I was doing because it was fueling a sexist society of male chauvinists and basically i was adding to the issues women already face and I was degrading women.
From this I gave her 3 points that I felt quite strongly about.
The first was that the reason I loved photography was because I loved to capture beautiful people. Others love to capture beauty in nature, animals, architecture or whatever. So MY decision to photograph beautiful people was because it naturally inspired me. It wasn’t for cheap thrills, it wasn’t to find a way of bedding models, it was purely because I love beautiful faces.
I explained that NONE of my photography was tacky. It was all shot in as classy and elegant way as I can possibly shoot, with the ability of still keeping it sexy.
The second point was that I want this to be a long term career for me, I want to make my mark in the industry, i want to be up there with the best. I want to shoot the big campaigns, and I want my work on billboards. I continued to explain that most major companies target their market through sex. To me nothing is sexy about an overweight, unattractive, average looking person, or should I say, nothing about a person like that would attract ME enough to buy whatever they were selling….
So what would be the point in me shooting someone like that, when all the other photographers were shooting these stunningly striking supermodels???
My last point was that I felt really insulted by her attack, mainly because she was portraying me to be the sort of guy i hate.
So we began to have a bit of an interesting “debate” and I got so pissed off that I switched off my laptop and went for a run. Until that moment, anyone that had seen my work had always said a few simple words to show their appreciation..
“Really love the colours in this”
“What an amazing model, great work!”
Which is always lovely, but i had realised that for the very first time, my work had evoked such a passionately strong emotion in a FRIEND, that they had to voice an opinion which I felt could of quite easily damaged our relationship. From that moment on, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, because I realised, THAT is what art is about. Whether you absolutely love something or you can’t stand to look at it, if it really makes you feel something, then it’s art.
don’t get me wrong, there is shit loads of “modern art” I have seen that i just really don’t get. So i just stick to my new found belief………
I have come up with an idea. I have found the right model that fits the idea. I have organised the right hair and makeup artist that will be able to create the right look for the idea. I have found a location that suits the idea. I am the one who puts it all together and captures it just like I originally saw it in my mind (obviously with the help of my team). And then I am the one who puts the final touches on it to make it perfect for ME.
I have full creative control, if it goes right, fantastic. If it all goes horribly wrong, then that’s on my head. But as long as it makes people feel SOMETHING, I have done my job. Which I think makes me an artist…
And that is quite hard for me to say, purely because of my own insecurities, but now I definitely say it…
I AM AN ARTIST.
So basically, that comment was the best comment I have ever had…
What do you think?