Point of view is a critical choice in story-telling. It’s true in photography, in fiction, in news media, and in national discourse. Wide image or narrow focus? Deep depth of field, or narrow? What story do we want to tell? I’ve been wanting to explore the art of street photography, and I read some eye-opening advice about photographing people on Otto von Munchow’s blog. He recommends using a wide angle lens over a telephoto lens because it “places the person in its surroundings; you get a connection between the person and his or her environment, which adds depth – literally and figuratively – to the visual content.” I look at Otto’s pictures of people in context, and I feel a human connection, a better understanding, and even compassion.
What does photography have to do with national discourse? Thursday is the one year anniversary of the USA Supreme Court decision to strike down portions of the Defense Of Marriage Act. “DOMA” is a law preposterous in both title and alleged remedy: to protect heterosexual marriage by prohibiting same-sex marriage. It seems to me that DOMA is one of the few subjects of national discourse recently in the US — actual thought and consideration and discussion about a very heated subject. And, I saw a documentary on the Vietnam war, and compared it to the lack of images about the war in Afghanistan, and I’ve been distressed by the narrow and shallow coverage of climate change. All this led to a discussion about national discourse and its demise.
I think point of view in our news media is one reason we have so little national discourse in the US, especially these days. It’s uncomfortable to get close in, to feel impact on actual lives, to connect with people and plants and animals far away from us, to realize planetary implications of our choices. What would our national discourse look like if news was intended to “get a connection between the person and his or her environment“. Would we have actual national discourse on the subject of climate change, global war, or the surveillance state? How much do we want to know? How much do we want to feel? Is our focus on me, today, or is it on the world we’re creating?