21 February 2009

Michael (another guy)

(Click on the picture above for a bigger version so you can really see this guy.) I met Michael one morning when we were both on our way to school- him to MS 378 where he's a student and me to South Brooklyn Community High School where I'm an advocate counselor. Later that week I saw him again when he came to use the gym at my school with an after-school program he attends.

The past seven portraits I've posted have been of guys. Overall I've photographed many more men than women for this project. I have a few thoughts about why. First, the neighborhood is filled with garages, workshops and factories so the economy (and sexism) bring more men into the neighborhood to work, and often to work in outdoor or open spaces. Women in our society, statistically, do more hours of work than men but in the city a lot of that work is inside childcare, and household work. So my guess is women in Red Hook are busy that way while men are outside (where I meet them) working, or relaxing and socializing. Likewise boys usually get more encouragement to play outside than girls.

Another factor is that even when I do see and take interest in a woman as the subject for a photograph, she often declines my request to be in a picture. This may be because our culture particularly targets women around physical appearance and gives constant messages about how women should and shouldn't look. Given these factors, it's not surprising that a woman might say no to a stranger asking to take her picture. And when that stranger is me, personally, I'm sure that there are ways that (as a man) I still have a lot to learn about how to approach and engage women as respectfully and skillfully as I could.

Given these obstacles, I particularly value those times when I do find a comfortable engagement with women in the neighborhood, and I value the portraits that result. I'll plan to show a woman in my next post.

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