So I’m out for a hike, like we do every single weekend. As we are walking, we see another family on the trail. They obviously aren’t from the United States, they seem like they are financially well off, and as soon as they see us, all four of them grab their cameras and start taking pictures of my family. I’m not sure what to do. This is so bizarre, tourists taking pictures of me. I am immedietly protective of my children. Why are these people taking pictures of my kids. The family doesn’t speak English, so when I ask them what is going on, they just smile, wave, and hand us each a granola bar. They turn and walk away smiling at each other and looking at their cameras, comparing pictures. I don’t understand what just happened, and I feel violated. I am nervous, why did those people take our pictures? Who were they?
That story isn’t real, not for family, but I’ve been the one behind the lens.
While scrolling through Instagram, I noticed a lot of pictures from non profits and people on mission trips. Pictures of families living in rough conditions with dirty ill fitting clothing. I started to wonder how they feel about their picture being taken. Was that family playing outside while some people on a mission trip walked by and took their pictures? Were they asked first? Did they give permission for their photo to get posted online with a message about poverty? If I traveled to France, I wouldn’t take pictures of a random cute kid playing outside, but in Haiti it seemed ok. I’m feeling really embarrassed about the number of pictures I have taken of strangers on mission trips. Pictures where my intent was good, but now it seems like another example of how detached I am from others.
This is my rough draft about this topic because it’s new and fresh and confusing. I’m realizing how differently I treated people when traveling to Haiti. I’m wondering why I thought it wasn’t weird to take a strangers’ picture without his or her consent. I’m wondering about all the tiny steps I’ve taken to remain comfortable and able to distance myself from connecting with people on mission trips and in day to day life. If I viewed a Haitian child, woman or family as an equal, I wouldn’t take their picture and walk away. I would talk to that family, learn their story, treat them like people.
It’s easier to love through a camera lens. It’s easier to take a picture and post it with a message about how my heart breaks for a person, a family, a county. It’s harder to say hi. It’s harder to say, we are the same, you and I, we are equal and I’m not here to save or help but to be with you and you with me.