Rule-breaking, menorahs, and Charlie Brown
I broke one of my own photographic rules tonight. When I began doing street photography, I formulated a set of rules to follow, one of which is to not photographic the homeless out of respect for their dignity. I refused to exploit another human being’s misfortune for my own artistic gain. I came to a crossroads tonight, though, and made an exception under the circumstances to make a statement.
After dinner on this quiet Thanksgiving evening, I decided to set out to downtown and join in on the Black Friday melee with stores opening at 8:00pm instead of midnight like years pass. My objective was not to stand in line for crap deals, though. Rather, I ventured out to document how we have failed to heed Charlie Brown’s warning about holidays becoming too commercial. Christmas had already capitulated to commercialism years ago, and while Thanksgiving struggled to hold on, every progressing year sees it eroding. It will not be long before Thanksgiving is all but obliterated and Black Friday moved to the day after Halloween.
I had anticipated only photographing people standing in lines, then rushing forward through the doors like Orcs storming Helm’s Deep. Instead, however, I came across a scene that conveyed a non-holiday-encroaching reason why queuing to storm a store just seemed wrong. While customers were crowding up around Target for an iPad or Galaxy, a homeless man sat right by the line. I am not by any means advocating that people should leave the line and give their money to the homeless man; what someone does with their own money is solely there own prerogative. The controversy of whether or not to give to the homeless, and what they will subsequently do with that money, is not what I wish to bring up here. Rather, what I wish to convey is the first thought that came to mind when I saw this: we have become so consumed with buying some material gratification to sate our desires, willing to rush in, push people aside, trample on one another, just to get that iPad for not much cheaper than normal, and yet there are people who have absolutely nothing at all. The dichotomy of those in line and one with nothing at all is rather disconcerting to say the least. I had to capture this despite my rule against photographing the homeless. In doing so, I exploited a man’s misfortune, but I also exploited shoppers’ insanity of standing in 25° F weather to grab as many LED TVs as possible. I have no qualms at all at of the latter.
I carried on with my reportage, going from State and Madison and trekking up to the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue. All the meanwhile, trucks with giant CFL-lite menorahs circled around to commemorate Hanukkah. Three holidays converged this Thanksgiving evening when I came across the Christmas tree at Pioneer Court and saw a one of these Hanukkah trucks driving by it. Trifecta.
Happy Holidays, everyone!
All images © K. Dao Photography 2013, all rights reserved.
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