Last week, I wrote about the power of photographs to liberate and oppress, from Frederick Douglass’s Daguerreotypes to a Manhattan photo instructor’s fraught relationship with his model.
I am concerned to be on the liberatory side of photography history. Goodwill alone won’t take me there. So, this week, I am articulating what had been my nascent principles for portrait photography.
As I developed my thoughts for this piece, I found familiar influences from my coaching training. This didn't surprise me, because I've been thinking about those connections over the last year. I was gratified to also find the influence of Brazilian educationalist Paulo Freire. In his text Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire lays out a philosophy for a democratic relationship between an educator and students. He theorizes a “co-intentional” relationship: the educator and students share power. They negotiate together what they will study and how they will learn, and the educator teaches by posing problems and questions about lived experience, rather than coming to the classroom with ready-made answers. Nonetheless, the educator is still responsible for being an expert in the issue at hand and for setting a course that will best serve the students. Thus, the alliance remains dynamic, supporting students in taking risks and making new discoveries.