Confession: I Killed a Man


“The photograph is like old age: even in its splendor, it disincarnates the face, manifests its genetic essence.”

-Roland Barthes in Camera Lucida


Upon reading this quote, I thought of a photograph that I took about a year ago on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan. An old man with aged skin and penetrating eyes sat on the steps and smoked his cigar. For that moment, I was captivated by the wisdom this man encompassed through his stare alone. I wanted to know everything that man would have to say to a teenager like myself. Would he amuse me with stories of his long gone childhood, or reference a magnitude of books throughout our conversation. Once I came to my senses, my immediate desire was to capture this man’s wisdom through the lens of my camera. After creating the most fitting composition for this man, the shutter closed and killed this man, froze him right before he took a drag of his cigar.

I attempted to do exactly what Barthes was saying could never be done. I took a photo of this man in hopes of capturing his wisdom. This makes me think of Antonino’s attempt to capture Bice’s essence through his lens, in Calvino’s Adventures of a Photographer. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my attempt and ultimately killed the moment and the memory for this man and myself. I was unsatisfied with my photograph as he was interrupted by my stare. After that moment, I made a promise to myself to experience before capturing. This was not an attempt for me to swear off photography, just a reminder to lower the camera from my eye and see the world through my perspective rather than the filter of the lens. I have decided to follow this pattern: see, experience, capture, kill. This way, my destruction of the moment is excused by my willingness to experience the moment before-hand.

By Cana Sarnes


One Response to “Confession: I Killed a Man”

  1. I really like how you put your own personal experience into this post so I actually did the same thing on mine. I liked how you related to the feelings of the author and I also thought the title of the post was really intriguing.

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