The most powerful photographs are not just beautiful. They challenge people to think about their own beliefs. They make people uncomfortable. I wish that I could claim that I thought about this before I took this picture since it brought on a pivotal moment in my photographic life. I wish I knew “There are people who are not going to like this.”
I was at a workshop. Learning about studio photography. The model was professional. She oozed elegance, and has such lovely lines. She was wearing a red dress that produced beautiful shadows in the drape. The person running the workshop was ‘dressing’ her, taking one thing off, putting another on, and we took turns photographing her. When she put the fur cape on the woman I just captured the image. Was the fur real? I don’t know. What I saw from my lens was texture, and more lines.
I thought it was a great fashion image. But I’m convinced now it is a wonderful image because it was strong enough to compel a photography club member to point out that The Stoney Brook Camera Club is “Nature friendly” and while the photography was good, the image was sad. (Translation: This image is not welcome here because the model is wearing fur.)
Of course I felt defensive. I wondered if she reflected the views of all the members. I wondered if it was appropriate for her to critique based on her own political views. I was angry. How dare she judge me based on a single image? Then I realized, that is the power of an image. And it is what a strong image will do. The great ones move us to action. They strike us at the heart of our beliefs. We react with our fight or flight brain. She felt so strongly about the fur she was willing to publicly ridicule a new member in a club.
The image also challenged my own thinking – since wearing of fur is not something I think much about. I don’t wear fur. I do wear faux fur. I’m tacky I guess. I can’t remember the last time I saw a real person wearing a fur coat, collar, or cuffs. I have a gorgeous girl cat named Iris and I just couldn’t imagine her as part of a fur coat. 101 Dalmatians was my favorite movie as a child, but the grown up me loves animal print scarves. Do I love animals? Look around my blog, read. You’ll find the answer.
I wondered if she was a vegetarian? Because someone who speaks out against fur coats and still eats meat seems like the worst kind of hypocrite. Mainly because I don’t see how eating or wearing cows, chickens, geese, pigs or fish is any different than wearing a wild fur. Sentient beings include domestic animals, trees and plants. We buy those all processed and neatly presented in yellow foam and plastic. The trees and plants fare no better.
And why stop there? Should we be throwing paint on leather couches? Do you wear leather shoes or boots? Even most “hikers’ include some leather. Leather is just fur without fur. As a spiritual person, I’ve already struggled with the eating of animals. And it seems wearing fur is a similar choice. I still eat meat, but I do it with a grateful heart for the nourishment the animal provides, the sacrifice of the animal. I am conscious of my choices. It’s the best I can do.
How do you feel about this beautiful woman wearing a fur? Does it matter if it is real or manufactured? If she was an Alaskan, would it be more acceptable? The world is not black and white.