When it comes to going out into the world and photographing, some will tell you to photograph what you know, that that’s the only way (or maybe the best way) to make sure your photos have veracity.

Me? I don’t subscribe to that. Of course I’m not suggesting you parachute into a foreign culture (whether it be near or far) and apply some colonial mindset to what you see. We’ve had enough of that, thank you very much.

But I do think it’s possible, if you go slowly enough and are open enough, to get to know something other that that you are familiar with. Or at least to be able to render your perspective on, and your relationship to, that (other) aspect of the world. Your photos will (should) show  your biases and your ethics, morals and intelligence. If, that is, the viewer cares to look at and think about them from a critical standpoint.

Sad to say, though, critical thinking is something that is sorely missing in the way many view and consume photographs. All too often reactions to images are of the knee-jerk variety. And those knee-jerks are usually informed by current modes of thinking combined with some fundamental stance that was adopted long ago and has never been revisited or revised.

But without consideration of the histories of the world, the medium and, mostly, consideration of ourselves, that only leads to an orthodoxy that often (usually) excludes nuance, alternate perspectives, the long view. It only engenders the entrenchment of what we think we know.

Author: Tony Fouhse

Tony is an Ottawa-based photographer.