The Obsessive Eye

Most photographers, are by definition – voyeurs except maybe nature photographers.  But you do spend a lot of your time just looking at things; and evaluating whether they’re worth clicking on.  Sometimes in less than a heartbeat.

You are turned on by how shapes and colors or tints of black and white are arranged in two dimensions.  It means that you are constantly looking at life.  Not doing a lot of smelling or listening to it.

You are more like the old gunfighter now.  The mental reflexes may still be fast, but the flesh and bone isn’t able.

But looking back over my images, my 100’s of thousands of images, I can see patterns that represent me in some visual way.  No one picture, but if you fed them all into Watson, you’d get to know a lot about me.  About what appeals to me emotionally.  What appeals to me in terms of thinking.


And like a gunfighter that had survived many fights, you were inured to any sense of privacy limits.  You were constantly looking for ways to intrude (okay maybe document) people’s privacy.  The problem was, that if you asked permission, the odds were that you had just changed how they were going to act; and certainly lost the candidness.

But you could get that back if you were willing to spend time with your subjects.

Well, as an example of going to far (I think) back in 2003, I snuck a quiet film camera in with me when I was having one of my many colonoscopies.  I hid it with my clothes in the clear plastic bag they give you which you then put in the space under you on the moving bed.

And so when I was recovered a big, after my colonoscopy (which I was partly awake for) I looked over at my fellow recovering patients, and while still partly under the influence of whatever I took this period.

As I say, this is posted as a sort of mea culpa.  But the line is very delicate isn’t it.  What is the value of taking photographs of unconscious patients who have just undergone some procedure, same as you just did.  And what is the point of showing this one 12 years later.

I think there are about four pictures that I’ve taken that I wouldn’t post.  This one is slightly over the borderline.

4 thoughts on “The Obsessive Eye

  1. That ‘Smoking prohibited’ sign…. I wonder how many patients wake up from a colonoscopy and light up a cigarette?! Anyway, I think your photo was captured respectfully.

  2. There are surgeons who finish cutting out the lung of a cancer patient and then go out and get a smoke. Nicotine is as addictive than heroin. And that’s saying a lot.

  3. I like this shot a lot and I don’t think it’s over the borderline. I took a shot yesterday and I think it’s the first one that I wouldn’t post. I still took it, though.

  4. I also waited what, like 15 years to post it. Walker Evans felt the same way about his subway portraits. He didn’t want them published until he died. Or more accurately, until after he died.

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