This is the second of a three part series on how we can learn
to relate to other cultures as photographers by embracing aspects of our own culture.
Many struggle to realize that our own unique cultures are a good tool that can help us
communicate and understand cross culturally. There is a correlation between
understanding one’s own culture and engaging in a new and different one. Through
embracing, valuing, and understanding our culture first, we can recognize and appreciate
cultures that are not our own. ~ Brian M. Hirschy
PART 2: DOWNPLAYING YOUR OWN CULTURE
Bias – The effects of downplaying the uniqueness, richness, & significance of our own culture
Our personal biases are worth understanding when entering, evaluating, and photographing new cultures. One’s bias is tricky to notice because it often masks itself as opinion or preference. As photographic story tellers we must be careful not to be one-sided. To prevent yourself from becoming an insensitive photographer, enter a new culture without partiality.
Many photographers have a bias against their own culture in comparison to the ones they want to photograph. This kind of bias is hard to notice and can be very harmful. Often people try to engage a culture without understanding or even liking their own first. Not only does this reduce our ability to share about our culture (Read: THE TWO SIDES OF EXPERIENCING CULTURE ), but it also contributes to a destructive view of culture in general.
Bias against one’s own culture can indicate bias against other cultures. We are all partial in one way or another, but we must be cautious of destructive and blinding favoritism towards other customs and traditions. This kind of bias separates us from the stories we are seeking to tell through our photography.
When we believe our own culture isn’t as rich or unique as another, we are ranking cultures without knowing it. We declare that the new, unique culture is better than our old, lackluster one. It’s important to realize the immense depth and uniqueness of every culture, including our own. We must not compare cultures in the context of “better” or “worse.” Differences do not make one culture better or worse. They’re simply different. A healthy respect of our own values and traditions allows us to appreciate other cultures all the more.
Moreover bias against our own culture is an indicator that we are only seeing and comparing the superficial aspects of culture. Culture can never be determined by the things we see on the surface. If we believe our culture is shallow, ultimately we will believe this of another culture. For example when we visit new cultures, we might instinctively perceive them as less interesting than cultures we’ve visited in the past. It’s not wrong to prefer one culture over another, but this must not hinder us from exploring the richness of all culture we’re exposed to.
It’s a strange concept that we are bias against our own culture. Perhaps our bias is subconscious, without us realizing we do not appreciate our own values and customs. This unfortunately can leads us to seek out these new and exciting cultures that are different from our own. We can escape our familiar and old culture through our biases, but we miss an important truth: all culture deserves appreciation and understanding, including our own. Understanding and respecting the culture we come from first will ultimately help us value others. And this holistic approach to culture will not only make us better photographers but better people as well.
Part 3 on Friday
Brian M. Hirschy
Lights//Camera//Joy @ BrianHirschy.com