Portraiture: No-one is Equal

Christian dogma would have us believe that we are all created equal. This concept has seeped into our cultural understanding of the world.

Nietzsche challenged this and spoke of the master-slave reality of human nature. Man wants to subjugate his fellows, if he is able. His ideas were perverted and misused in Nazi ideology and were lost for some time.

We would like to believe that now, we think of everyone as more or less equal. We have overcome an instinctual but offensive racism, and sought to be better than our animal ancestors.

But an intellectual understanding does not dictate emotional response. There are around seven billion people in the world (so I’m told). We cannot even comprehend the number itself, let alone the thought of many billions of diverse personalities.

We can cope with only a few people, and it’s been argued that we unconsciously see everyone as either like Mother, Father or a scarse few individuals we encountered as infants. The rest are ‘other’, crammed into ill-fitting concepts.

We aren’t equal. Some are more capable at some things; and others less so. It’s impossible to really know someone; we use inductive reasoning from a pattern of behaviour to second-guess their future actions and reactions.

Photography is even more limited, confined as it is to the milisecond; the glance, the frown, the passing smile. But we are happy to read into these, as if a single still image could possibly contain the sum of an individual.

These photographs are lies; captured, unmanipulated snippets of an inconstant personality. Read into them what you will; but be advised that the choice of the photographer as well as your own past experience colours your perception and makes them, ultimately, false.