Why I stopped making pictures

You Will Have To Carry Me. (C) Qathi Gallaher Hart, 2009

I call myself a photographer, or I did. I would say that I was on a track to making photography a career of some sort. I love picture making. I love the people I've met and the bonds I've made through photography. I love the technical side of it, I love the self expression of it, I love the possibility of artistic expression. I love looking at images. I devoured images. I'd let the images tell their stories or make up my own story to fit an image. I particularly like what I'd call "academic photography." The type of pictures that are of floating grocery bags or bushes, discarded party hats and the like. I started college to get a degree in fine art photography. The longer I'm in school, the more contemporary art theory I study the further and further I get from making photos. Through this education that I was hoping would take me closer to making successful images is instead pushing me away in disgust. It seems that most photography we see in fine arts, in journalism, (obviously) in commercial and editorial photography is intending and designed to objectify people in an unhealthy way.

In my life as a feminist, as a compassionate human, I can't consciously objectify another human.

Look at me I have access to these people/situations.
Look how horrible/beautiful/strange/exotic this person is.
Look, I'm objectifying myself and all women through my self portraits.
Look at my collection of people
See how caring/judgmental I/you can be.

Even "humanitarian" photography serves to objectify other humans to some gain. Photo journalists must be present as documentarians, not as participants. The more I learn about photographers who embed themselves in culture to make photo essays, the more I'm grossed out by how arrogant and self entitled they must be to take advantage of people like that.

For a while I thought I'd get away with being a portrait photographer, people will have come to me to have their picture made. That I can live with, but even then what is happening with these images but proving that I have the good taste to know these people, so they become a collection that demonstrates that I am arbiter of good company, therefore the images serve to objectify humans in a small way. I've twisted this in a way with my Self Portrait Studio, giving the sitter an opportunity to reverse the gaze, own the image being made of them by being in control of the shutter actuation. I came to this after making my own self portraits for years. I stopped because it just became silly to continue after it served it's purpose for me, but also because I became utterly disgusted with the success of an image being tied to sexuality and gender. Some of my very best photos are of nude women. Women who asked me to make their photos. In each situation the poses went too far and became lurid in some way - which is a game changer. The line between exotic and erotic is thin. Every time it was crossed I became very uncomfortable. I think because it crossed a boundary of trust and taste that we'd established together for the purpose of picture making.

Photo history is a lineage of images that have been crafted with care to tell stories, exact a reaction, motivate social change, eroticize the human form, demoralize, celebrate and especially to collect trophies. Of course there are many other subject/objects to photograph that are not sensationalizing, objectifying or a collection trophies and these subjects mostly fall into the category of academic photography that I love so much. Bushes, shoes, misplaced under pants and the like. Until I can resolve my internal conflict with objectification and picture making, I'll be in my studio making drawings.


  1. I can appreciate where you're coming from, the compassion you're dwelling in. I see your perspective, and can get behind it a little.
    I also myself, am moving toward lightening up a little, and taking the MEANING of things less seriously. My reaction to this post is to say yeah, it's FUN to objectify! As long as no harm is intended.

    It's easy to become completely muted and oppressed by our fear of offending anyone. I think that it's more important to get clear on the intent and let the world be responsible for its own reactions.


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