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  • Writer's picturePoetic PIXELS

MORAL DECAY


Photo Cred: Marlon Rowlett

Kindness prohibited!

What started out as a personal project to help remind people of the power of compassion, quickly turned into a psychological tug-of-war of cooperation and a power struggle for time.

While shooting the compassion project, I started out with a simple idea that I would create a sign that read “Live the POWER of COMPASSION” and capture my ideas in a public setting for more dynamic impact. So I made my way downtown and set up my camera in an alley near the beach. After taking a few shots, I noticed a few people watching while passing by. They appeared interested in observation but apprehensive to approach. Working alone while shooting street photography portraiture is challenging. Setting the composition would be better if I had a stand in to get it just right.

I stopped a couple people walking by and asked if they would be willing to just hold the sign while I framed the shot. They agreed without hesitation. Looking through the view finder I saw magic. The idea hit me. Why not get shots of different people holding my sign to create a collection of shots in different locations downtown?

The idea seemed simple in thought but would prove to be challenging in practice. How would I get people to agree to hold a hand written cardboard sign? People in a society that cultivates the idea that favors must be reciprocated or time must be compensated. I didn't spend much time pondering, instead figured the best approach would just be to ask.

Downtown is a very busy place. I knew I would need something quick, compelling and to the point. I'd start by introducing myself with a genuine handshake and a smile. Having all my camera gear worked in favor of people judging the gravity of the project. I identified myself as a photographer shooting a social project to help remind people of the power of compassion and kindness. And asked if they'd be interested in holding my sign and taking a picture with me.

I wanted to capture a diverse variety of photographs so I asked different people from all walks of life. From homeless people riding bikes to well to do people driving 6 series BMW’s.

Some people agreed to help out of genuine support for the idea that inspired the project. Some agreed to help if compensated. Some for notoriety. Some for help in return. And some not at all. Actually, MOST not at all. It seemed that people were very cautious and suspicious about having their picture taken. I think I asked about 80 people and got about 17 people to say yes.

This got me thinking. I started to evaluate the people that agreed to spend 2 minutes with me to take a quick photo. Most were people who had less than. Destitute and impoverished. Weary and overlooked. I found that these people were drawn to inquire what I was doing and expressed interest and willingness to assist me.

Why!?

Why would I find more connection with people who have less than people who appeared to have everything but time? This idea developed into me questioning time and how important it is.


Photo Cred: Marlon Rowlett

People who rejected or declined my request, often exonerated themselves with a common excuse…time. Either short on it or none at all. Some showed no interest in learning about the project or its benefit. They seemed rather content and would prefer to be left to their selfish scurrying about. I shot in front of a Catholic Church. The only people interested in helping me were those who were there to receive benevolence.

I met a homeless man named Ron. He spent some time with me and watched my struggle to get people to shoot with me. He identified with my trouble and shared his thoughts about what he called “moral decay”. “Where Americans now conveniently live in a false reality and ignore and are unaffected by the social collapse going on around them. The world is falling apart, and it does not register.

What is happening to America? When did we all become such selfish, egotistical, inconsiderate, self centered, hoggish beings?

“Why are we so obsessed with entertaining ourselves and attaining status, that we have lost all touch with reality.” I found it quite hard to disagree with Ron. I shared my indignant thoughts and feelings with him and he offered to stand in for a couple shots. I met another guy named Mervin who offered to hold my sign if he could play his harmonica for me.

This project proved to be a true beauty in the dark. The end result while exquisite, reminded me of just what a repulsive world we have polished and cultivated. Raising children into this has to be most frightening.

Are these people victims of a social construct that taught them as children to capitalize on capitalism? To place significant importance on materialistic nonsense? To disregard all ideas of human compassion, kindness, altruism, tenderness, mercy, charity, empathy and consideration? What separates us as humans to the degree that we discount, dismiss and disregard the basic need for compassion?

When will we break down these invisible anti-social walls that divide us and realize that walls laid flat are bridges.

Thank you to all the beautiful people who helped visualize a basic creative concept that we all benefit from.

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