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Do Photographs Capture Souls?

Do we lose our souls in photographs? I hear of many cultures that believe that photographs take at least part of the soul of the subject. I was watching History Detectives on PBS the other night and the topic was an alleged photograph of Crazy Horse. Ultimately, it was decided that the photo in question was not of Crazy Horse, but of a Native delegation sent to Washington, DC to negotiate a treaty. Crazy Horse never let himself be photographed because he feared for his soul.

Most of us in today's American society scoff at such a belief. A soul being captured in something as trivial as a snapshot? How ludicrous!

I agree that the concept of a photograph taking part of a person's being is crazy, but I maintain that the belief that it does is much more widespread than most people would think. A large number of Americans will tell you that they find the notion absurd, but the moment you mention posting photos on the internet, there is some neurological chemical reaction that causes them to change their ideas without admitting it.

skotsshots-6441Case in point: a couple years ago, I was running in Cameron Park here in Waco. As always, I had my son in a jog stroller and we were lumbering up a hill. About a third of the way up, a woman running down the hill stopped me. She warned me that there was a man at the top of the hill taking photographs. She said she wasn't sure what his intentions were with these photos, but she called the police anyway, just to be on the safe side. I wish I hadn't been out of breath already or I would have mentioned that I am a photographer and really don't care if someone takes my photo in a public place, as I have not expectation of privacy on the roadway of a city park.

Second case: I know of at least a couple photographers and am sure there are many, many more who are concerned about posting images of children on the internet Some cite as yet unconfirmed evidence that people take images of children and use them on some "other" sites. Before I continue on this idea, let me clarify a few things. The theft of images is real and copyright violation is real, but an issue for another post. I understand the potential danger of posting a series of images that make the child (or adult, for that matter) easily identifiable and traceable. I also respect my clients' or others' wishes to keep their photos private and completely obey such requests. This post only focuses on the use of images for personal enjoyment by those not directly authorized.

I may come off sounding callous here, but I really don't see the impact of someone else viewing my images in a context I had not intended. If I post an image of my son and someone I don't know views it and thinks, "Wow, that kid has a wildly deformed head," or something, how does that affect my family? He doesn't know me, will probably never meet me, doesn't know where I live and if he did, probably can't get here easily. All he has are his thoughts in his own head that in no way are communicated back to me. Even if he sends me an e-mail alerting me of my child's deformed head I can always delete and ignore it. Problem solved. He has, in no way, affected my life, my family, or my relationships. (As a point of clarification, my son does not have a deformed head - just in case you were wondering.)

Please let me know your opinions on this matter. I lay no claim to omniscience and am more than willing to entertain all views on this issue. I am really curious to find out if I'm the only one who holds this belief or if I'm wrong in my estimation of American mores.


Scott Everett