October 20, 2013

Photographer Turns Catcalling Men into Subjects of Gorgeous Photography. {Video}

City of Brotherly Love: emerging photographer documents a part of her life as an African-Mexican-American, transitioning from suburban Colorado to Philadelphia.

Photographer Hannah Price relocated to Philadelphia in 2009 from Colorado and almost immediately she noticed a prominent difference between these two locations: the frequency of catcalls she received on a regular basis—and thankfully for the rest of us she decided to transmute her discomfort from these experiences into gorgeous art. 

“Hannah Price’s series, City of Brotherly Love, features portraits of men in Philadelphia captured just moments after they harassed her on the street. ” Here’s a snippet of her interview with The Morning News.

The Morning News: How did the series begin?

Hannah Price: I grew up in Fort Collins, Colo., and never experienced men publicly expressing their sexual interest in me till I moved to Philadelphia. At the time it was an unusual experience and threw me off guard.

TMN: Describe the moment when you turn your camera on the guy.

HP: Once a guy catcalls me, depending on the situation, I would either candidly take their photograph or walk up to them and ask if I can take their photograph. They usually agree and we talk about our lives as I make their portrait.”

Yet Price seeks to draw attention to this issue without completely damning it.

Actually, “ambiguity might be one of this project’s most prevalent themes. It’s been mistakenly referred to as ‘My Harassers’ on some blogs, which Price does not like. Her series doesn’t take an aggressive stance on catcalling; it’s not meant to incite social action, she says. Rather, it’s an observation, a way to react behind the camera lens.” 

Price’s open-mindedness and desire to simply portray her (and others’) human experiences is partly why she so strongly opposes this incorrectly attributed phrasing of her work on some blogs—“my harassers”—and the criticism that her project has received has largely been based on this improper terminology.

Hannah’s project has been criticized as an unfair display of her ‘harassers,’ but that’s not the point behind Hannah’s art. “I don’t look down on these men. I understand that I’m different and my morals are different, but the photography is a chance for us to have a relationship in another way that might not be sexual interest.”

And it’s her non-judgmental approach that, in turn, makes this series so powerful.

“The art is the result of a powerful action. By being active instead of passive, by confronting these men about their catcalling in a conversational, though not particularly aggressive way, Price forced them to (literally) face the humanity of the person they just so casually objectified. You don’t need to be well-read on feminism to have at least an inkling of the issues dredged forth by these interactions. Then, there’s the complete lack of editorializing. Price isn’t necessarily even judging these men, nor is she painting them in a negative or accusatory light. She, too, is facing her harassers’ humanity. (And, exposing the subjects to the vulnerability of a photo is a kind of revenge in and of itself.)” 

Still, Price has no delusions about what change her photographs might bring about.

She says in her video interview, “I don’t think it makes them re-think catcalling. ‘Cause I’m just one person and we’re all different people and we come from different places. I don’t know in their experiences if they’ve had any luck with their catcalls. They probably have, depending on the person, so I don’t think my one instance … makes them re-think about what they’re saying.” 

While this project has received viral-level sensation online, Price sees it as an extension of her work in general.

Price often focuses on mixed-race identity. Black and Mexican herself, she’s drawn to subjects of mixed ethnic identity, and City of Brotherly Love was a project with a similar thread.

In an interview with NPR, Price says, “My background is I’m mixed-race. … I’m Mexican and black, and I grew up in white suburbia and so I’ve photographed stereotypes of the black race and the majority [of the recent work has been] mostly about men.

It’s just, I’m just trying to like … bring all of these [ideas] of what a stereotype is and what people expect. It may or may not be true, that’s the thing of what a stereotype is, is that they’re true but they can also not be true. It’s kind of like this thing that you base off what it looks like. What you perceive it to be.”

In the same interview, Price makes it known that she hasn’t been able to clearly define catcalling as disrespectful or not.

Price says, “To an extent, it is disrespectful. It depends on the tone, yeah. It really depends on the expression, what they say to you. Sometimes people will say they want to do something to you—I feel like that’s really disrespectful. I think it really depends on the phrase.”

She goes on, “I’m not trying to stop catcalling. I think a given thing, especially for an urban community … it’s more just an experience that I had, and a way for me to deal with it. I ended up making a relationship; I ended up taking time to spend time with people who threw me off guard and ended up making something beautiful out of it.

I mean, it’s uncomfortable, the act of catcalling. But I’m not trying to do some social thing. I’m just trying to—it’s coming from a different place. I’m just trying to understand. …

I mean, I think it’s kind of de-humanizing. I wasn’t trying to dehumanize anyone, it was just a response [to] an experience, and just because I’m … just because I’m a black person or a minority, it’s easier for me to talk about this subject or make those photographs. And I understand how other people may respond to it. I’m just trying to point out that … I was just transitioning from a different place, I was just trying to …. point out that we’re all human and all confused.

That’s why it’s the switch of the camera. I’m in the photograph, but I’m not. Just turning the photograph on them kind of gives them a feel of what it’s like to be in a vulnerable position. … It’s a different dynamic—but it’s just another way of dealing with the experience, of trying to understand it.”

Visit the artist’s website here


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Ed: Sara Crolick

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