Monday, July 21, 2014

The Back Of The Bus

Since Mr. Von Thomas has not had the courtesy to respond (as promised), I can only conclude that he believes this a non-issue, one not worthy of his time or attention- let alone his response. In other words, I'm gonna assume he's one of those blessed souls who claims they just... "don't see race." Personally, I hope we all get there someday- as for right now:

... every time someone says that, it tells that other than white person that you are not seeing them as who and what they are; you are not considerate enough, knowledgeable enough, astute enough to know how the world works (regardless of whatever education you may possess), and how your position in it is automatically differentiated from theirs since birth- and that you will neither make the time nor effort to even consider that, thank you very much. In short, that magic, feel good phrase says more about what you so woefully lack as a thinking, feeling individual, than anything you may possibly have to offer as friend, ally, or neutral observer. And it does so in a manner that not only comes off as utterly inept, but also as completely arrogant, ignorant, condescending and bogus.

At best, in today's day and age, saying you "don't see race" simply means you want to avoid the subject at all cost.


As to the issue at hand... People are naturally drawn to photograph (and publish) that which for whatever reason appeals to them, and as long as there's no harm, no foul- who am I to object or argue? That said, If You Leave has become one of the most followed and referenced online photography galleries. It presents itself as the iconic look and feel of hip young photographers in today's modern day global setting, something that particular generation can identify with, relate to and share common ground with. And yet, how can this visual vehicle that promotes such supposedly cutting edge, universal appeal be so shackled by the centuries old constraints of racial exclusion? I mean, when I saw the blatant lack of diversity in its images, I was... I believe the term is- gobsmacked!

Jesus H Christ! From the gallery to the backyard, it's deja vu all over again in this so called "post racial" era. Sixty years after Brown vs Board of Ed, de facto segregation in schools is alive and well in the US, and Europeans are still happily tossing bananas at Black pro ball players while making monkey noises!

Photo: Laurence Tarquin Von Thomas

Five long years of photographs on If You Leave, hundreds of photographers, and one (count 'em- you're welcome to correct me) photograph (by none other than Mr. Von Thomas himself) features a scattering of Black faces interspersed in the background of an image highlighting a White female as its focal point. There's a possible second of a Black man in a hoodie- alas, the face is concealed (yeah, the absolute irony- identity and affirmation denied)! And- that's it, period. Case closed! Hundreds upon hundreds of photos (fifteen of Asians), and not one that predominantly features a Black or Brown face to date...

Obviously, someone doesn't realize just how badly that plays and translates, and/or just doesn't care- and for someone supposedly literate in the photographic/visual image, that is inexcusable. Everybody makes mistakes or omissions, but when you continue to exclude and deny representation of specific peoples (that just happen to compromise so much of our world) over such an extended period of time... Intentional or not, it presents a very clear picture of a global viewpoint that conspicuously denies the value and very existence of those people. The implied message- they're just not worth considering, let alone looking at. Who's gonna miss 'em, who's gonna object?

Is that really where we are today? Again!?!

Is this new Kickstarter endeavor the promise of a new, less exclusive format? Here we are in the 21st century where the discussion has finally shifted to publishing work taken by indigenous people the world over, instead of just having the White world view. Is this what If You Leave means by its stated goal of a global audience- encouraging and publishing photos both of people of color, and by them? That's a lot of ground to make up on both ends in the case of this publication- one so deeply steeped in denial and exclusion.

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