Was thinking about an old post here (and Good Writing on Photography) when I came across this trenchant Eggers piece which needs to be copied here in full. From the Guardian UK, in 2004. When I teach again (writing or photography), this’ll be the first handout.
Woman Waiting to Take a Photograph
by Dave Eggers
The woman is a young woman. She wants to make a living as a photographer, but at the moment she is temping at a company that publishes books about wetlands preservation. On her days off she takes pictures, and today she is sitting in her car, across the street from a small grocery store called The Go-Getters Market. The store is located in a very poor neighbourhood: the windows are barred and at night a roll-down steel door covers the storefront. The woman thus finds the name Go-Getters an interesting one, because it is clear that the customers of the market are anything but. They are drunkards and prostitutes and transients, and the young photographer thinks that if she can get the right picture of some of these people entering the store, she will make a picture that would be considered trenchant, or even poignant – either way the product of a sharp and observant eye. So she sits in her Toyota Camry, which her parents gave her because it was four years old and they wanted something new, and she waits for the right poor person to enter or leave the store. She has her window closed, but will open it when the right person appears, and then shoot that person under the sign that says Go-Getters. This, for the viewer of her photograph when it is displayed – first in a gallery, then in the hallway of a collector, and later in a museum when she has her retrospective – will prove that she, the photographer, has a good eye for the inequities and injustices of life, for hypocrisy and the exploitation of the underclass.