Stealing Your Soul

January 13, 2011

Photographs/videos/audios or other recordings – actually do remove part of their subject’s soul.

It is captured, subsequently removed, physically or mentally, and occasionally altered, clarified, extruded or othewise re-used.

I am not enough of a soul man to know what exactly to call that something that is removed.  Soul will do for now. Is essence better?

Isn’t that the whole point of the recording to begin with.

To “take” something? As in take a picture.

And eventually, to possess or transmit a vital emotion, feeling, mood, point of view, perspective, art form, or just plain something worth talking about that you have yoinked from a subject, and then… well, you talk about it, or show it or publish it? And if you are any good, you add your perspective and style before you pass it on.

Unlike many of the under-contacted first people who also share this belief, I think taking and and diffusing can be a good thing.

First let me say, volumes can be written about the art of taking. And permissions.  And attribution.

In Hollywood, they call the stealing of ideas – reworking, or paying homage.

Ethnographers and documentarians are simply “recording what is” – which is, recording what they see or are given permission to see as a moment in time. It may or may not be representative, and their presence may or may not alter the behaviors of those recorded, but regardless, it is passed off as a visual record of “the thing.”

Musicians build on the creativity of others in the recording session and don’t necessary share the publishing and writing credits.

Writers re-write. Remind me again what is new under the sun?

The point is a new product is created by masticating and filtering that original essence.

The braver, more commercially oriented, proud or artistic, attempt to distribute the new work and diffuse it through the culture.

This diffusion occurs at a rate that varies with the degree to which your perspective or your work resonates with an audience(s).

As your image or voice or writings or a mash-up of each are Xeroxed (you do remember what that word means, don’t you?), Scraped, Posted, Re-Posted, Syndicated, and otherwise Recirculated and ReRun in places known and unknown, in ways known and unknown and with consequences known and unknown around the world, you and your works are spread in the consciousness of more brains.

The stealing part happens if this capturing and diffusing is done without permission or under false pretenses – an obvious theft of something that belongs to someone else.

But even if actual theft doesn’t occur. Even if you “put it out there” for all, a bit of your personal soul is consumed by each and every member of the audience. And as it is consumed, it (hopefully) embeds itself as some self-replicating meme.

That is the potential power of an image, or of thought.

And you really have no more control over whether your project becomes the next IT than you do over whether it will be cloudy or sunny tomorrow.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Harold Davis January 30, 2011

Great post, Alex! And great to see you the other day.

Viewser January 30, 2011

Thanks Harold – it was so good to see you and your beautiful family, as well. Thanks for a copy of your latest book – Creative Portraits – as well, I have been enjoying it immensely. Hope to see you again soon.

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