how do you photograph elder friends?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by jtk, Dec 3, 2018.

  1. OP
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    jtk

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    Michael, Has anybody made your portrait with oxygen tubes? Have you personally made such a portrait? Please post an example in Media.

    I have a half dozen elderly friends who do exhibit COPD (tanks, other devices, tubes) . I think it would be taken as offensive if I asked to photograph them with that equipment.
     
  2. BrianShaw

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    I think you should ask them rather than assuming. You might be surprised that they are more comfortable with it than are you.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  3. Michael L.

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    Thanks for getting back to me, jtk.
    Some time ago, a dear old friend with COPD asked me to take her photograph, tubes and all, and I did. I'll have to ask her if she will accede to having it displayed on this site.
    I myself have not yet been photographed with such equipment except for documentation purposes while hospitalized; when at home, I am "unplugged" and must make do, sometimes laboriously, without supplementary oxygen (the medics advise that it would adversely elevate the carbon dioxide content in my blood to a life-threatening degree). Thus, a picture of me as I am now would only show a tired and somewhat skinny old geezer, nothing out of the ordinary (but then I never was). Not very illustrative. But should I ever have to be connected to any visible breathing aid, I still wouldn't mind being photographed.
    Your last paragraph answers my question about your reluctance to shoot COPD-cases.
    Thank you. If that is your friends' probable attitude to being photographed in their distressing situation, I can certainly understand that consideration for their sentiments must carry much weight with you. It was just the singling out of COPD that made me wonder whether people in the US generally are a little more shy about visible infirmity (their own and that of others) than most people over here.
    And I concur with Brian Shaw (#27) - you may find that your COPD-afflicted friends are not ashamed of their condition and various devices (what would be the use?). The affliction does not make them any less your friends; there's even a good chance they would appreciate a portrait session with a highly skilled and sensitive photographer.
    Greetings,
    Michael
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  4. OP
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    Michael, there are at least two related issues here.

    One is the fact that many or most people correctly associate COPD with smoking, which is very much a "lower class" addiction in the US today. The other is that my spin on portraiture involves making respectful images that reflect the way people hope they look, within reason.

    Several years ago New Mexico's health department funded huge roadside billboards featuring a cowboy (Marlboro Man type) whose cancer surgery removed most of his lower jaw. Fine, horrible photos. I don't think of them as "portraits."
     
  5. faberryman

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    It would take a Photoshop magician to get a portrait of me like I hope I look.
     
  6. BrianShaw

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    I just paste a photo of George Clooney to the mirror...
     
  7. BrianShaw

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    Forgive my bluntness but you seem more concerned about what “others” may be thinking and your own biases/concerns than the desires/needs of your portrait sitter friend.
     
  8. OP
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    jtk

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    In general I dislike, try to refrain from using the term "should." Call me PC. I try to minimize my authoritarian tendencies.

    As well, I'm not looking to be "comfortable," I'm looking to make portraits...of people who may not have had portraits since their marriages in the 50s.
    Perhaps you're right. Hard to imagine anybody free of personal biases and concerns. Are you bothered by my comments about tobacco? I'm not a Republican so I have no problem referring to social classes and the only people around me who make use of tobacco chew it...which is repellent and will cause cancer more surely than will cigarettes. .

    Do you have any thoughts of about the OT? Do you make portraits?

    How about posting some of your own work in Media?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  9. BrianShaw

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    This is a discussion forum and we are discussing. If you want to challenge folks talking with you on your topic by demanding proof of credibility... go ahead. I’ll not entertain your arrogance.

    Do you have any credibility? EDIT: asked because the deleted part of the prior post challenged my credibility. How convenient it was to delete that later. :wink:

    Your just too much for me. Ignore... Bye.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  10. Michael L.

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    Thanks very much for clarifying your viewpoint, jtk. I can appreciate what you call your 'spin' on portraiture and will not argue with it, though I myself tend to prefer a more 'true to life' realism in a portrait. Personal styles and customer wishes and tastes vary.
    The other issue you mention is interesting.
    Few would deny that COPD is usually associated with smoking, but in Denmark smoking has never been perceived as especially indicative of lower class status. On this point, it seems, there is a real difference in culture. Until recent years, smoking was (only too) common in all socioeconomic and educational strata here; professor, doctor, unskilled worker, cabinet minister, business tycoon, tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor, rich man, poor man etc. ... they all smoked. Even our reigning monarch, Queen Margrethe II, is still an unrepentant cigarette smoker (as was her father). But then, class differences are moderate and not very pronounced in Denmark; we are a typical Scandinavian society with high social mobility and a low level of inequality. This may account for the fact that COPD carries no socioeconomic stigma here.
     
  11. Sirius Glass

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    The billboards were portraits, unconventional, not the type we like to see or think about.
     
  12. OP
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    Have you seen portraits of Danes when they smoke, or of Danes with COPD appliances?

    I wonder if Danes generally recognize people with COPD as burdens on society, the way many Americans see diseased cigarette smokers.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5094652/
    "Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common disease in Denmark because of the very high smoking prevalence among both men and women in the past 5 decades. The prevalence of COPD in Denmark is thus, among the highest in the Western world. It has been estimated that ~400,000 of the total population of ~5.5 million have obstructive lung function impairment compatible with COPD.1 In fact, the risk of death from COPD of a Danish woman is 3.3 times higher than the average in Europe, whereas the corresponding risk for a Danish man is ~1.7 times higher.2 COPD is a considerable burden for the Danish society, both with regard to premature deaths as well as economically due to substantial consumption of health care resources."
     
  13. BrianShaw

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    Michael... the problem with COPD is right in the definition presented earlier. It is an umbrella term for one or more medical diagnoses. Emphysema falls under that umbrella and is often smoking related. But not always. Chronic bronchitis falls under that umbrella term but it is not often smoking related. Asthma too.

    People assume lots of things but it isn’t always true. It’s the nature of people. My Dad died of, among other things, liver failure. Some assumed him to be a drunk. Truth is... he never drank more than coffee and it was gout medication that fucked up his liver. Who cares what someone ignorant enough to cast judgement says or thinks... not I.

    I’ve done portraits of several cancer patients and stroke victims... closed family... with visible effects much more pronounced than an O2 line. (And, no... I don’t feel compelled to share. I might but don’t scan much and certainly won’t entertain son jackasses “challenge”.) All of my sitters really would have pteffered to have been photographed in their prime but were secure enough to be photographed as they were. One asked not to be photographed in the last stages of life. It wasn’t a pretty sight; I understand and put the camera away. It was much more important to be comforting than to be documenting. In all cases the decision on photography was part of a loving discussion in which two “needs” were balanced: my desire to have a lasting memory, and my loved one’s desire to be remembered the way they chose to be remembered.

    In the end... I saw their illness and deaths in the rawest possible way. The photographs are what they are. The mental memories haunt me more than any photograph ever will.

    Talking about this on the internet seems to be what the OP is all about. Wasn’t it schizophrenia last month? Talk... and the same challenges that seem to go only one way... and no action...
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
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  15. OP
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    jtk

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    OK. I won't argue with that.

    This topic/idea occurred to me because I have some elder (like me) friends...some of whom (perhaps 1/2 the men) have COPD and bring apparatus to social situations. Interestingly, none of the women show COPD or, for that matter, mobility issues (walkers etc). All of these people and spouses are upper-middle-class (comfortably retired diplomat, academics, physicians).

    My younger friends are largely tradespeople and their spouses and don't have COPD....however the men do commonly use Copenhagen or Skoal (snuff) even though they probably know why Major League Baseball has now banned it.
     
  16. BrianShaw

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    If you don’t know women with COPD you either don’t have enough friends or you need to spend a bit more time at Walmart or Target.

    It is quite possible that your higher educated associates are more likely to take their health situations and appearance in stride than others who may not be quite as analytical about things. It was that way when my wife last took a photo of a Supreme Court Justice with very visible signs af aging, including a rather hideous age-related injury.

    Have you asked them... or just pounding the keyboard rather than clicking a shutter?
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  17. ozmoose

    ozmoose Member

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    Boys, boys, boys - can we give COPD a break?

    Politically correct/incorrect commentary aside, the OP asked for strategy, not morality.

    Can we now take the grown-up stance, assume the subjects of the portraits are willing, and devote ourselves to good advice on how to go about it.
     
  18. BrianShaw

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    Go right ahead...

    But please note that this is in “Ethics and Philosophy“, not Portraiture Technique. :wink:

    BTW, if you like the Rolleisoft you’ll probably really like the Rollei Duto.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  19. Arklatexian

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    If the sitter is overly aware of wrinkles, nothing forces you to use the sharpest lens that you have or keeps you from using what one manufacturer calls a "softar" filter. If it "bothers" you to use such aids, don't do elderly person portraits. To me the idea is to produce a photograph that the sitter is pleased with, not show-off your ability to show "realism". I, personally need to learn to light a "formal" portrait which is how I would shoot an elderly person and is how I would prefer to be photographed when I become elderly. I am 87 now. Maybe when I am 90, I will be elderly. Maybe I'll just shoot my reflection in a mirror.........Regards!
     
  20. Michael L.

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    Yes to both questions, jtk. Earlier it was not uncommon for an interviewee in e.g. a magazine feature to be portrayed sporting a cigarette or (if male) a pipe, but after the badly needed anti-smoking campaign a few decennia back this has become rare. In newspaper and magazine features on health challenges, on the other hand, I have some times seen even whole-page portraits of interviewees wearing e.g. nasal cannula.
    I don't think so. It is not my impression that Danes in general begrudge certain patient groups the care they need. Voicing assumptions of a disease being brought on by people's own fault is considered vulgar. With the number of COPD cases here, almost everybody has a relative or friend who is so afflicted. Although there is occasional grumbling about high taxes, the principle of solidary funding has a long history with us, and our tax financed health care system still enjoys undivided support. Use of hospitals and GP services are free at the point of use, and the system ensures equity in access to health care.
    But, as ozmoose suggests (#41), let's give COPD a break now. My question has been fully answered.
    Sorry for hijacking the thread.

    Regards,
    Michael
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  21. guangong

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    The only portraits I have taken have been for book jackets for friends. I have nothing against formal portraits, but generally that is not the way I like to see or remember people. Basically, my pictures are candid even when subjects know that I have a camera ready. I took a very nice picture of one of my friends who was in his mid90s and was an electronic and computer engineer as well as a wonderful calligrapher which showed a dignified but happy moment. He died a short time ago.
    Took pictures of a late brother-in-law with my little Minox iii yrs ago. All of his other pictures were formal portraits and he also looked quite formal. My Minox captured him in good humor at his usual spot, the kitchen table as a real person.
    I can understand someone not wanting their picture taken with medical apparatus entering every body opening and I would respect their wishes. On the other hand some may want a picture as a warning to others about their lifestyle. Most likely folks don’t want a portrait for themselves, but to give to someone, so that may be a possible enticement.
    Jtk raised an interesting question, for which there doesn’t seem to be a single answer since every potential sitter has a different opinion regarding their own portrait. Best to play by ear and try SG’s gambit,”Next!”.
     
  22. Michael L.

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    Thank you for relating your experiences with photographing seriously ill relatives. Much food for contemplation there. I am impressed by your sensitive approach to these difficult tasks, and your thoughts on the matter are much appreciated.
    Highly developed empathy is invaluable in a portrait photographer, but in situations like the ones you describe both photographer and sitter need courage as well.

    Regards,
    Michael
     
  23. Alan Edward Klein

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    Discussions about the Marlboro man and posters remind me of a personal story. I used to be a very heavy smoker but eventually stopped 24 years ago. I tried all sorts of remedies: wrapping cigarettes, hypnosis, Nicorette gum, nicotine patches, etc. etc. Once i signed up with the Seventh Day Adventists who had a one week program at their community in upstate New York. While there, we hiked, ate no meat (but did eat oat burgers), and did all sorts of stuff relative to stopping smoking. They showed us a movie with the original Marlboro Man. You see him far away in the desert wearing a cowboy hat and coming towards you on a horse. As he gets closer, you realize he's breathing through an oxygen breather with a hose. The movie was never shown in the US at the time. The cigarette companies were able to keep it out of America. In case you want to know, I did stop for about five days after the treatment, but started again. But was able to stop a while later. I have some emphysema although the doctor says I don;t have COPD.
     
  24. faberryman

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    I am a fan of the Richard Avedon warts and all school of portraiture. Beats Olan MIlls hands down.
     
  25. Sirius Glass

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    If you do not want to use a Softar, print through a stocking. If you need to fold the stocking over to get rid of the wrinkles remember to use a lit cigarette to burn holes for the eyes. << wink, wink >>
     
  26. ozmoose

    ozmoose Member

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    Are you being deliberately disingenuous? Philosophy of photography, yes. Philosophy of denigrating COPD sufferers, well, huh.

    Such comments (and the attitude they reflect) are rife on the Guardian OL where brave keyboard warriors feel free to denigrate. Here on Photrio, I take exception to such remarks. :pouty:

    The Rollei Dutos and Softars are the same and can be used on 3.5 Tessar Rolleifexes or 3.5 Xenar Rolleicords. I have both sets, in Bayonet I, the original Tessar mounts. Identical.

    I am pleased to see we are back on appropriate 'photo philosophy'. Please, please, let's keep it up.
     
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