If you put a camera in someone’s face, you can learn a lot. I’m not referring to the story that person tells, though their narrative is important. I am referring to the reaction someone has to the very camera. While filming for our class project and with the Rethink students, I have experienced the distrust that accompanies the introduction of the camera. For one of the projects, this has meant an obfuscation of negative aspects of the changing Freret St. Neighborhood. At Dibert Middle School, it meant hyper-vigilance on the part of teachers and administrators “checking-out” exactly what our group was doing. As a member of a community of color, I was not surprised by the apprehension and distrust that a camera introduces. Rather, I expected it. The camera has been used as an instrument against people of color so often in history. Most recently, this was seen with the media portrayals of New Orleanians during Hurricane Katrina. However, I was surprised by the paranoia and distrust that came from the institutions, whether schools, businesses, or community- building organizations. I usually associate distrust with media with corporations with something to hide however, in New Orleans, a city so marked by outsider’s portrayals, everyone is aware of their media image and representation. With so many negative portrayals of New Orleans and its institutions, many of these schools, organizations, and businesses are concerned with creating a lasting positive image. In a society over-saturated with media, a person with a camera in their hand is indeed very dangerous.
By Ariel Guidry