Here is the following response by Winslow:
"give me a W. give me an H. give me an I. give me a T. give me an E. give me a G. give me an A. give me a Z. give me an E. what’s the spell? white gaze. what’s that spell?! WHITE GAZE. will the black male in these images gain anything from these prints? will he gain insight? will he ever get to see any of the money that daniel is making, even if it isn’t a lot? what do these images say about the black experience? what are most of these images saying?"
This was his response after several discussion points had been made:
"My response on Daniel’s FB in response to Stanley. If the word “bully” is gonna be used here, I’m definitely the one being bullied by Daniel Shea Yes Men right now. Sorry not sorry for being critical. What also annoys me is that someone said “stop using words you learned from art school” and to that I say, didn’t Daniel do the same with his response? Wasn’t his response much more rhetoric than anything else? It is as if it was typed for a press release or resume. So if Daniel uses “art words” it’s okay, but when a black artist wants to, it’s just some nonsense? People need to start checking themselves. I was just asking all the questions I thought all artists do before approaching social subject matter. I guess not. Again, look at all the people who liked both responses. They are mostly white. I rest my case."
"Whitesplainin’ means nothing to me, especially when it comes to the arts. danielshea's response reveals more levels about how problematic the work appears to be. White liberals always wanna a pat on the back for being a decent human being and caring about human rights. And who ever reblogged that Stanley's response is part of the problem. Period. That particular response is highly ill informed. It's hilarious at this point how many photographers do not understand the depth of context."
here was my response-
I think, firstly there is something healthy going on with this series of conversations and its the fact we are not just saying, 'look, these are nice pictures' we are actually talking about them. I cannot stress how important this is in the process after pictures reach real people and either hit our nerves or generate some form of opinion. What I like is we are not talking about the aesthetics, we are talking about the context. And that is whole point, surely, why else would we bother making work?
I'm going to come into the argument but not too much. Reading all the quotes left in the dialogue I get the feeling observing from the outside and learning instead weighing in with a naive opinion would be best at this point. When I look at the photograph, the work, I see a part of America. I have written about Daniel's first installment of Blisner I1 here.
And reflecting on how I felt when I saw and wrote about the work, race rarely even came into it. Whether or not my background as a person comes into this probably has a lot to do with it. I grew up in a neighborhood which was predominantly white, I have had black friends, been out with black girls and although the amount of black friends I've had is a lot less than white friends that is just down to initial circumstance, not choice. In my later life people of any race have begun to enter my life and at 24 this is probably the time for this to happen. As you leave university and enter the real world. Living in England my whole life I too am an outsider to this conversation. I do not understand the environment in the photographs and it intrigues me like America intrigues me. But I have never 'lived' America, only visited and observed. The thing that brought me in was photography and my interest in Daniel's work, like many other photographs I follow from America. I have followed the opinions and work of Winslow, Je Suis Perdu was my biggest influence in setting up my own platform 3 or 4 years ago and I can see both points as having decent and right parts involved.
I find it uncomfortable to comment on this and isn't this the main problem. We cannot talk about this, but we should be able to. And, that is why Winslow's point is crucial in this argument. The instigator, someone who will jump right in and make explosive comments not floundered in art speak, but real words and honest opinions. I think the issue of the 'white gaze', something I have just discovered and will continue to discover after this. That is the problem. Why can't a white man photograph a black man? Vice versa, why can't a black man photograph a white man? Why is it more comfortable for a white man to photograph a white man? And, why is it more comfortable for a black man to photograph a black man? These are very basics versions of the kind of questions were asking. Please do correct me if I'm wrong.
The work is about a place, where people of all colour are. If the photographer, regardless of their background, race, gender, whatever sees a photograph they are drawn to, then they will take it. The ethics apply to everyone. I could say the same about if I photograph a woman in the street and walk away, put it online and people pat me on the back for it, maybe even pay me for it. The same argument would arise, but it is a smaller argument, it is always a more tentative argument when race is involved because it is hyper sensitive and for good reason too. If it wasn't something would be wrong given the history of racism. We walk around the situation like were walking on egg shells. It is the history behind it, and I'm not going to say I know anything about it, nor condone the past or understand why it happened. But its there. And it is the hostility in the argument (to a certain degree). But everyone who has said something has been tentative but polite of others opinions and thats the right kind of discussion. I think the reason it angers people, if your white or black is evidence the issue of race and racism is very much on the surface of our lives. We all know whats right, we all know whats wrong. Would Winslow make the point if it was a black photographer taking the picture, or if it was a white subject. Again, said with the up most respect. We all know racism is wrong and at this point it is a very sensitive issue, as I type this I feel myself getting nervous and cautious how I word things (this is the most I've ever proof read).
The issue is, a photograph of a black man taken by a white man. The white gaze, but I think if we stop looking at people with eyes of the past and focus on the present, a place where we know what is right and that neutrality when we look at people, now needs to be applied. If we keep looking at people with raged feelings of the past and instead look at them as a person then we are fixing the situation slowly. Our generation could not control history but we can control the present to a certain point.
I know this debate is not completely fueled by the idea of racism, however I get the feeling the issue has arose through the hierarchy the white photographer has taken over the black subject (unwillingly might I add). I can see that it is a worry when the photographer profits from a photograph of someone else. I think its all in the way it is dealt with.
If we think, Paul Graham, over the past decade or longer has been looking at people of America, and focuses on black people. Just look at American Night. He then made a book which probably sold for massive profit, or at least a profit and this was a white photographer. Where was the subjects money here? Why didn't they get paid? Did they have an interest in it? Did they know the pictures were taken, published and sold? Is this ethical?
Is race the issue? If Paul Graham was black and photographed black people on sidewalks would this make us feel more comfortable. I don't know. It feels like an impossible question at the moment.
This was the argument before (please note, these opinions are not my own but from the previous discussion which can be found here)
- Winslow, I want to respond to what you said. I appreciate you bringing things up, and I think our politics come from a very similar place. Also hi, we know each other in real life, down to talk, always.
I don’t want this to be a “defense,” more just my thoughts on representation and race in the context of my work. I am dedicated to anti-racism, but I’m positive there are flaws in the ways I think about things. I’m open to any dialog about it.
I agree, these works are part of the discourse of/on gaze, literally and inherently. I’m a white photographer photographing a black young man here. I’m just not sure if I agree that it’s bad (or that talking about it in those good/bad terms is useful).
I think my work engages with critiques of representation, through various forms of representation. This project is a book (and also sometimes an exhibition) about Southern Illinois. It contains photographs of men and women in this region, which is demographically diverse. My work has always represented a wide range of subjects.
I’ve thought a lot about this over the years (who can/should I photograph/include), and the alternative is far more problematic for me. That is, a world where a white photographer only photographs white subjects (another kind of supremacy). Despite creating works of fiction, I’m dedicated to engaging with the real, and in this case, that means photographing a variety of subjects that not only make sense in the fictions but also represent the people who inhabit this area.
Regarding the gaze, I think white photographers photographing black subjects can sometimes be engaging and productive to these discourses to representation (my aim) or be problematic (the colonizing, white gaze). That being said, I think a photograph like this can never be benign or “neutral”, because racism is both active and passive.
My intentions are clear and my politics and concerns as an artist are easy to find anywhere on the web and the work (if one chooses to spend time with it) is meant to engage in political and social complexity.
Whether or not it does so successfully is obviously up to the audience.
Regarding compensation and willingness of subjects. I have no contact with this guy. Sometimes I keep in touch with my subjects, but I leave a lot of that up to them (in most situations, people are willing to be photographed, and decline to exchange contact information). I have never paid a subject that becomes part of my art practice. I have donated proceeds from sales to causes I believe are fighting destructive forces in capitalism (another form of critique I want my work to engage with). I do not make a living as an artist, and so far, I’ve sold enough work to cover maybe 3-10% of what I’ve spent producing projects, books, and exhibitions. I have a deep, deep compassion and concern and sensitivity for the people whose likeness exists in my projects. I feel extremely emotional as I’m responding to your post.
But I think it’s an interesting series of questions. I personally only know of one photographer who does this form of compensation, of all the painters, sculptors, photographers, etc I know (who, in my opinion, all engage with using someone’s likeness to make their work).
- Hey Winslow, we’ve never met but I’m a friend of Daniel’s, and a supporter of the questions he’s trying to raise in this body of work (Blisner, IL). I think in the first instance these pictures are interrogative not declarative, so they don’t state anything so much as they frame questions, but more importantly they frame questions about race and identity and power and ecology and community that are diametrically opposed to the kind of symbolism that has led to the murders of unarmed black men we’ve seen protested in this past few weeks. To put that very nakedly, there’s nothing ‘demonic’ about Daniel’s representation of blackness in Blisner or in these two photographs, and as a black man living in America I am deeply and continuously aware of the risks that such symbolism exposes me to in the most menial of daily tasks.
So the fact that Daniel’s pictures complicate and engage some of these derogatory visual tropes, as well as the more problematic socio-economic realities that have helped to produce them, makes these pictures all the more germane and timely and thoughtful in my view. Moreover, Daniel’s ethnicity neither compromises nor enhances any of those qualities that I see in his pictures, which will ultimately have to stand on their own two feet regardless of his own ethnic heritage. The fact that he is a beneficiary of white privilege or the “supremacy” he himself names shouldn’t detract from his work, any more than my blackness should improve the qualities of my own. If race and racism are a problem (which I would argue that they plainly are), then they are a problem by which we are all differentially but simultaneously affected, and they can only be remedied if we can find commonality in an anger at that injustice.
Finally, on the subject of the ethnicity of Daniel as a photographer of young black men, I also just want to say that I have made, and will continue to make images that are comparable to Daniel’s (as have a number of other black photographers), and if that means that I am/we are possessed of a “White Gaze” then I think your argument needs a good deal more context and careful elucidation. As it’s presently framed, your objection runs the risk of inflaming explosive tensions and prejudices without explicating how or why they need to be, and that will only abet the very worst than can be seen on anonymous social media platforms at moment when they could be used for something infinitely more productive.
- I don’t know Daniel or Stanley personally but I saw what Stanley — outside of this post — said about Winslow’s initial response. He framed it as “[A]n ill-formed and somewhat knee-jerk question about race and racism in his work…” I can’t for the life of me find one point of the series of questions asked as either of those things. Stanley’s response seems to indicate a need for white gaze — I can’t even get into the last two paragraphs. What he put in quotation marks in troubling and extremely surface. Winslow isn’t asking for — well, he isn’t asking for anything — reactionary pseudo-positive representations of black people/bodies, he asks the questions that should always be asked in a situation like this. Some questions of exploitation, which should always be asked. [We can’t accept the fallacious claim that exploitation of black people is how non-black people show a modicum interest, solidarity, appreciation, love, etc.] Daniel responded. Personally, I see most of it as an interminable liberal résumé-esque response. I’d like to explore the work more instead of using so many characters backtracking. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate it or that i’m not a fan of his work aesthetically, I without a doubt am.
There also seems to be confusion as to what white gaze is. White gaze isn’t a goal to strive for. White gaze is not simply the creation, but the audience, think of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man — who is his audience? Who are black men invisible to? You can be complacent even if you too are black. This idea that Winslow shouldn’t question or his internal questions, his initial feelings, which he is not ashamed to publicize should be exponentially expanded upon every time this kind of work pops up is ridiculous. “The fact that he is a beneficiary of white privilege or the “supremacy” he himself names shouldn’t detract from his work…” This fact leads to a feeling about his work here that shouldn’t be left silent or ridiculed. The idea that he should be pushing for something “infinitely more productive” is probably an even more ridiculous statement.
Reading this, I immediately thought of this Toni Morrison quote, which can liberally be applied here: “Critics generally don’t associate Black people with ideas. They see marginal people; they see just another story about Black folks. They regard the whole thing as sociologically interesting perhaps, but very parochial. There’s a notion out in the land that there are human beings one writes about, and then there are Black people or Indians or some other marginal group. If you write about the world from that point of view, somehow it is considered lesser. We are people, not aliens. We live, we love, and we die.”
- There is a lot I want to say and weigh in on (I want to specifically address the exact areas of content of these two photographs (gesture, language, and the context within the book, and why I chose to include them). But I’m going to hold off for the immediate future, spend time with the importantresponses above by Stanley and Donovan, and reflect.
- Donavon is saying really great things here and I’m reblogging it because not many other people are. Scrolling through the notes of this thread I see a lot of mutuals liking/reblogging the responses to Winslow’s original post. As Winslow pointed out (in a separate post), nearly all of them are white. Just to be clear, I am white as well.
I have to ask this of other white photographers commenting on this issue: why is your visceral response to question Winslow’s questions? Why is your visceral response to immediately defend the work of a white photographer shooting a black body? Is Daniel’s photograph more important to you than the life of the person represented in it? Why is Winslow painted as a “bully” but Daniel (and others) are viewed as calm and even-tempered?
This community (obvi.) needs to spend more time shutting up and actually listening to the black voices in it. Understand that it’s okay to question the intentions of white artists. It’s necessary to do so.