I Don’t Shoot

Last night I had a dream. Not I suppose unusual, but I seldom remember my dreams, and few of them relate to photography, but this one contained two very clear photographic images, and it is those that I remembered when I woke up in the middle of it at around 5am. I can’t recall more than the small incident that involved them, but I do know that they were taken with the 70-300mm Nikon lens, and that somehow at the same time as looking through the camera I was also looking through the sight of a rifle at the man I was photographing in the first of the two images.

This showed a man, a native inhabitant of some jungle in his tribal regalia, taking aim with a blow pipe and a poison dart, but it wasn’t in the jungle but at some kind of organised event, and I swung the camera around and took the second picture, which showed the dart passing within millimetres of my daughter and embedding in the wall or fence behind her. And I don’t have a daughter except in this dream (and perhaps others I don’t recall.)

The images were bright and colourful, although the details have rather faded from my mind now, but I was seeing these, and a slightly less clear wide-angle view of the scene, and thinking thank goodness I hadn’t pulled the trigger and shot the man, which had been my initial reaction. Looking back on the pictures in my dream I realised he couldn’t really have been using a poison dart at an event like that, and was clearly aiming to miss – as he did. I also remember thinking, before I woke up enough to swing my legs out of bed and go to empty my bladder, how surprising it was that both of the telephoto pictures were sharp, though I can’t now recall the aperture and shutter speed! It was only as I got on to my feet that I realised that these pictures were not real.  No doubt my analyst – if I had one – would have something to say about all this.

I’m not a pacifist, though I’m generally against war, but had I been born 20 years earlier than I was I think I would have gone to fight fascism though perhaps my skills would have more useful away from the front line. I’ve never owned a gun or rifle – and the only guns I’ve ever shot have been air-guns and air rifles, mainly at targets in friend’s back gardens when I was a teenager, or at the fair. But I don’t shoot pictures with my camera.

‘Shooting’ pictures is a metaphor that I try hard to avoid. It doesn’t reflect the way I think when I’m working with a camera and I find it disturbing, though it has become so much a part of our normal language of photography that it’s hard to avoid – and sometimes I find myself slipping into it. I never hunt for pictures either. I don’t even like to think of myself as ‘taking’ pictures – it still rather sounds like I’m stealing souls.  I’m rather happier to ‘make’ pictures, and often to make them with other people who are in front of my camera.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.