Mother & Child, H Street SE, Washington, DC © Susana Raab 2009
So I’m starting this new project in my hometown and to make things more difficult for myself I am shooting it on 4×5 chrome. It’s super fun and really frustrating, but it’s making me a better photographer, b/c when you shoot digital for 99% of your commissioned work, it’s easy to get lazy. I just got an attachment to sync my qflash with the 4×5 so I’ll be able to open up the shadows better but I gotta always remember about blowing out those whites on chrome. Why chrome? I love those blacks. I hate contact sheets. It’s hard. I like challenges. I’m stupid. I had five boxes of it in my freezer.
I saw this young mom walking down the street with her daughter and asked them to pose for me. We spent about ten minutes together, and I could tell that she was a really good mom. She was respectful but firm yet loving with her daughter. I felt a lot of love towards them both. I get strong feelings about people while I am photographing them, and I was feeling nothing but high-key being with them. I can’t wait to send her some prints.
When I finished shooting some man walked up to me and said that he had heard me mention that someone was paying me a lot of money to shoot these people, and why was I putting her in such an ugly location. I replied that he certainly had not heard me say the former because it simply wasn’t true, – (the day I start making a lot of money selling prints is certainly the day I will share my good fortune with people like this mother & child ). I also said that I thought the location was beautiful. He told me that I never would have put a white person in that location. I was angry and frustrated.
It was right after the election – I lost my temper and said something about how I was sorry that racism was still alive in this country and you don’t have to be white to practice it. I believe I also called him a jackass. I was heartily ashamed of myself immediately afterwards. But some dude walked out of my favorite fish-fry place outside of which this altercation had been taking place and said, “That’s right, Sis – you tell him. Sometimes we all just got to tell ’em like it is.” This made me feel a lot better, but I was still ashamed of losing my temper. Especially because the experience of photographing them had been a real gift of sharing and I felt like I had just besmirched it. I was wrong, and so was he. And we all know about two wrongs.
I should also mention, that when I am shooting for a client it wouldn’t even be a question of responding, as I appreciate very much the fact that I am representing, so to speak, and take that quite seriously. Yet there I was, very much on my own dime, trying to start a project about connections, being tested and failing. It is a lesson learned.
I’d love to know what you all think. Was my choice of location indicative of racial typecasting? For me it was there, where we were, and I love urban decay.