|Mary Ellen Mark|
Last week my students chose a well-known photograph and then critiqued it for a few minutes in front of the class, the group asked questions about the student's response followed by a brief discussion. This picture caused my learners to feel a sense of moral outrage and created a sense of unity in purpose by condemning the Mother for allowing such an image. I reminded the class that images are often factual but never truthful so was it possible that Mary Ellen Mark somehow convinced the Mother to put the girl in make up and get her to smoke a cigarette for aesthetic purposes. I suggested to one learner, who has a daughter albeit younger than the one shown here, that in a few years she should allow me to photograph her daughter in this way. I thought there was about to be another riot in London! They did not think it was likely that the photographer orchestrated the look and felt the image was genuine in this respect. Now I do like to take the alternative point of view because moral outrage binds a group together and builds a team spirit within the class. The learners are a mixture of ages but the majority fall into the 16-19-age bracket and I was delighted by the unifying affect of the photograph.
It is a sign of maturity to admit that you have made a mistake, or at least my parents always told me this. They must be very proud at the extent of my maturity this week. One of the learners, during a presentation of a photograph mentioned that there had been a 'kerfuffle' during the time that the image was taken. I was shocked! I work hard to improve their vocabulary and was mortified that all my good work appeared to be unraveling with this disregard for the Queen's English. 'Kerfuffle' was not a real word and by that definition I mean it needs to be in a dictionary. After a good natured and useful exchange of opinions we checked it online. I had humble pie with my tea during the break......
On Saturday I was filled with a mixture of emotions and tried hard not be tearful. The cause of this was witnessing Nick Knight's beautiful and sensitive images of women who had a mastectomy. My Mother had the same operation in the early 1980's and it created a surge of emotions as truly great photography can often do.