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Photo of the Week
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ISSUE

130

This week in the Photo of the Week:

"Grandfather"



photo of this weeks photo of the week


Grandpa

This portrait of a Brazilian grandpa greatly confuses me. First of, his face, which is somehow very prominent in the photograph, does not strike me as particularly male (maybe it's the glasses?!). Secondly, he does not strike me as particularly Brazilian. And then thirdly: gender and racial preconceptions are very much not my style – so why do thoughts one and two occur?

Preconceptions, especially concerning gender and race, are not to be taken lightly. They can be quite offending, harmful or dangerous and can easily lead to judgment, resentment, anger and retribution. Preconceptions have so often led to prejudice which in turn then led to more preconceptions and thus more prejudice. Before you know it an 'us-and-them ' situation is born and people start hating each other without knowing why – preconceptions and prejudice after all have nothing to do with what one knows or has experienced.

Well, the model or the photographer won't wage a war against me (though especially grandpa, or his kin, might be offended, which I assure you is in no way my intention – I am bound to write about whatever a photograph stirs up in me and this time it is not something I am particularly proud of, yet write about I will), but it is unsettling enough in itself, to consider yourself not racially or otherwise biased and then find yourself thinking these things about someone's portrait.

What do I take to be male? What do I take to be Brazilian? And what do I take to be 'not racist'? And why would I even try to take something as 'being Brazilian'? I could fill a page with all the questions raised by my reaction to this photograph.

Eastern teachings such as the Taoist philosophy and Budo martial arts practice share a recognition of the omnipresent human inclination to assess and judge. Striving to not judge what crosses our path - i.e. to let go of preconceptions - is one of their main goals, whether on the way to enlightenment or to purely effective combat, or both.

One way of approximating this judgment-less state is practicing Zazen, sitting meditation. You basically sit quietly and deal with the bombardment of thoughts that your mind conjures up when you grow quiet. You practice letting these thoughts go by without attaching yourself to any of them – some compare the thoughts to passing clouds in the sky, others to the busy fish below the unstirring surface of calm pond.

I guess what this weeks edition really tells me is that I should stop writing now, and go practice some more.

Text: Peter-Jan Vermeij
Website Peter-Jan (in Dutch)




photo of this weeks photo of the week


Photo of grandfather as a young man.
[Original photo by: Anonymous]


Until the next Photo of the Week!

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Texts and photography –unless stated otherwise–
all rights reserved © 2010-2013 Maarten Zeehandelaar

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