• Carl Battreall

Don't Shoot

In 1995, I had the privilege of taking a week long workshop with the inexhaustible Ruth Bernhard. At the time she was a young 90 years old (she lived to be 101). She was a gentle person, full of compassion and could see light and share it with her students like no one I have ever met. Sometimes, I felt as if beautiful light came directly out of her!

She encouraged her students to not use the word shoot when referring to creating photographs. She did not want the medium she loved to be associated with violence. I refrained from using the term for a few years but eventually found myself using it again, and quite regularly.

I have chosen again, to make a conscience effort of not using the word shoot. There is so much division, hatred and violence in our world right now, that I feel it is more appropriate than ever to refrain from using the term. Sure its just a symbolic measure, but I feel its worth trying.

Our culture is so obsessed with conflict and violence and photography has unfortunately, been a contributing force in creating that obsession. Writer and critic Susan Sontag wrote that photography was a predatory activity and that the photography industry has used that very aspect in their advertising to promote their cameras, lenses and such. Photographers are hunters, we shoot and we take and then display our trophies for all to see.

So consider removing the word shoot from your photography vocabulary. It will be more difficult than you think, but worth the effort.