Striving to portray my brother

I am a big believer in learning. If one can learn from the best, it is wonderful. I had great opportunities to take classes from world-class photographers at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York City. In a previous post, I mentioned one of these classes with Nubar Alexanian. I was fortunate indeed to be able to take another course at ICP with Mary Ellen Mark, noted photojournalist.


The wonderful thing about visual artists who are excellent teachers is that they can articulate a missing element in one’s portfolio. I found this to be the case with many different teachers. Since each artist has his or her own sensibility, one can get a well-rounded idea of how to approach  realizing of one’s own vision.

24 hours

In the case of Mary Ellen Mark, her assignment was for me to spend 24 hours with my brother. I couldn’t have thought of a tougher assignment. It made me confront several issues which were difficult for me: 1) standing up to authority – I had to try making arrangements with management at my brother’s group home to stay with him around the clock; 2) being present at private moments, without being invasive.

The night before

I took my camera equipment with my fiddle, to an Irish pub in Brooklyn where my friends were having a session, the night before my scheduled visit to Mike’s. I was going to take some photographs, play some music, have a drink or two and generally unwind before facing the stress of my assignment. I don’t know what happened, but I left the pub without my equipment! Fortunately, a friend took my equipment home with him. The next day I had to schlep to his house, grab the equipment and proceed to the group home. There is a lot more to the story, but the long and short of it is: I was sweating bullets by the time I got there.

Portraying with sensitivity

I thought this picture was important, in order to portray an aspect of care that is not ordinarily shown. I was admonished by the nurse’s aid and felt really bad about persisting.

Mike in the shower

Do you think this is an undue invasion of privacy?

2 thoughts on “Lessons

  1. I guess one would have to put themselves in the subject’s shoes. Would you want someone taking a photo of you in the shower? Is it acceptable to compromise values to tell a story?

    • Good points, Jill. But I don’t think it’s a matter of putting myself in my brother’s shoes in this case. I’ve been trying for years to do this and it is not possible. Would I want someone taking a picture of me in the shower just for a picture of me in the shower? If the point was to embarrass me, no, I wouldn’t.

      What is the story here? It is about 24 hours with my brother, who can’t care for himself. Believe me, it was not comfortable taking that picture, but I felt that it was important to do. I don’t think it was a ‘hit and run’, sensational photograph, but rather one picture in a continuum, telling a story of his care.

      Your points are well taken, Jill.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: