Three days ago, on my way to a TCM clinic in Banda Street to treat my injuries, I came across a man slumping against the wall. Then I saw the signs and the irony of it.
Photographers make choices, so I can photograph him without the signs, or I can.
Obviously, I know what will be more ‘popular’.
While waiting for my turn at the clinic, I thought about the ‘consequences’ of posting this image on Facebook.
I anticipated that it would be shared and reproduced widely, more than many other good works I care about. I predicted that it will be read and misread, and different factions will have different interpretations, not to mention, uses for it.
My original post contains five very simple words – 就那么简单 (translated: it is so simple). I wrote that because I don’t want to assign more meanings to it.
As they are shared and talked about, I saw the things I predicted that I will see.
It proved to me something I suspected: that something like this fits many people’s feeling and that a picture doesn’t have to be aesthetically perfect to be liked and shared.
I believe people have learned to associate and use imageries to champion their beliefs. Not a bad thing but neither is it a very sophisticated thing.
I could, if I had wanted to, ascribe many readings to it and given it the slants I wanted. But I didn’t have a strong feeling about it.
In theory, this picture is truth because a picture can’t really lie. In reality, I made decisions that affect how it should be viewed.
So if i post something similar tomorrow, I will be viewed almost immediately as anti-establishment and that will win me some new friends. If I post one that is opposite, then I am a fence sitter.
On my original post, it showed that my picture has been shared 118 times, and that’s not counting the ‘illegal’ shares, in cases when other users took my image and posted it on their pages instead of just sharing.
In principle, it is important for me to speak up against those who used my picture without crediting me. In practical terms, I hate to say, this picture doesn’t mean much to me. It is, at best, a simple social experiment I decided to do to prove myself right.
It is certainly more interesting to me how my picture is being used to champion certain beliefs, and as platforms for more serious discussions by serious thinkers on social inequality and politics.
These ‘offsprings’ are certainly more important than me being ‘ripped off’.
To put it more bluntly, the copyright infringement in this instance is a peanut issue in the big picture.
In one of the tangential threads, someone wondered what did the photographer do after taking the picture.
The honest truth: I was more set on finding the TCM clinic and fix my pain that morning. But two days after that, I tried looking for the man again at the same spot but went up the wrong flight of stairs.
What could I have done more? I have been thinking.
Should I have been more ‘responsible’ and find out why he was there? Sit down with him and ask him why he ended up there? Find out how I can help him?
Honestly, I would be quite lost about where to start and how far to go. I probably can help him a little by passing him a few dollars, but would that not be very presumptuous of me to assume he needed my assistance? Isn’t sharing that picture more effective way of getting attention for him. But again, I would be assuming that he needed. Right?
One thing I do know and that is I have no right to assume anything. And that is why I never said he is drunk, or that he is homeless, or that he is sick, or that he is an opposition supporter or that he voted for PAP and is now regretting.
I just don’t know.
Should I have shared this picture?
Seriously, why not?
Am I being cheeky? I know the answer is no.
Under these circumstances, an overrated saying – A picture says a thousand words – is often used to bolster the rationale to share it. Many have used it, though I think it is not so simple.
In this case, it is more like a picture has generated a thousand interpretations.
I really can’t decide whether to believe in words or pictures more.
I am guessing I can’t end this musing without saying something ‘profound’.
So here I go:
I don’t have big theory about this, just some personal observations and feelings.
Pictures are political, and people should know that and remember that.