I thought it might be fun to share a little bit about why I made this picture and the process of how it came to be.
First of all, if left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t have made creating this image a priority….which means it would never have happened. We are currently working our way through a year long group mentorship with Kirsten Lewis. This photograph was my submission for September’s conceptual assignment. I’d never tried my hand at conceptual photography. As most of you know, we’re pretty literal photographers over here. Stepping outside my comfort zone of photographing weddings, families and birth, was intimidating, but ultimately, really fun!
Once I got down to brainstorming ideas, I was actually overwhelmed by how many potential concepts came to mind. It was September and I was up to my ears in work. So, I eliminated the ideas that were too grandiose or required elaborate costuming, sets, or lots of people. That narrowed my list to two options. Neither of which became this picture. Funny how that works.
Jen had already decided on the direction of her shoot and I didn’t want to do something too similar, so that made my decision easy.
While I was in the process of planning my schoolhouse shoot and rolling my concept around and around in my head, the idea of writing lines popped into my mind. On the radio, there was some mention of Trump and immediately “I will not grab her by the pussy” added itself to my line writing thought.
One of my sons – the one modelling here – is very interested in politics and events and soaks in everything CBC Radio has to offer. I remember his disbelief when he first heard, on the radio, about the “grab her by the pussy” statement. He was eight years old at the time. I could see the wheels turning as he was trying to correlate someone who would speak this way with someone who was in line to run an entire nation. One thing was clear in his mind…this isn’t how you speak about women. About anyone. And yet, he was also seeing a nation turn a blind eye and hand this same person an incredible amount of power. It’s a difficult thing to reconcile and a sad testament to the state of our culture. We’ve had some wonderful conversations about this. Discussed examples we’ve seen in our own life right down to comments made at school or on his football team.
As for the picture itself. I have two versions and this one just spoke to me. Drew me in. In the first, he wears an expression of surly entitlement leaning on the chalkboard ledge aggressively. This is what I was thinking of originally for this shot. But then, he glanced to me from the chalkboard where he was dutifully writing the lines to make this image. I clicked the shutter. And this is what I got and it punched me in the gut. A beautiful boy – well dressed, well groomed, suit jacket draped on his desk chair – completing a traditional punishment for a transgression committed. And while he is submitting to the consequence, the juxtaposition of the strong words with his innocent expression is perfect. The boy in this picture is being punished, but he doesn’t see any wrongdoing. He’s incredulous. He was simply doing what men do. What powerful men do. And that is who our boys emulate.
While the response to this photograph has been overwhelmingly positive, I have had a handful of people suggest this isn’t appropriate material for a child. I get it. It’s a jarring scene with ugly words. But these conversations are important and we need to be having more of them. I, for one, would like to see a change and the key to that lies in educating our youth.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Also, Jen shot an incredibly beautiful series for this assignment about motherhood that she’s going to share this week – so stay tuned!