My friend Kyle Cassidy recently did a photo essay titled This Is What A Librarian Looks Like. It appeared in Slate and I admired it a lot. Kyle likes to discover a subset of humanity (roller derby women, gun owners, whatever) and photograph them as they are. I've watched him work. He sets up the screen, tells his subjects to stand before it, and then dances back and forth, finding the right angle, before taking two photos. He looks at them both, chooses the better, and shows it to the photographee.
Somehow -- and I've never been able to figure out how -- Kyle lets people pose themselves and then takes pictures that make them look both very cool and absolutely like themselves. In the Middle Ages, he would have been burned as a witch.
Weirdly enough, his photos of librarians (click here to see) raised a firestorm of controversy. He shouldn't have photographed librarians but their work! By including various minorities, he made librarians seem more inclusive than they actually are! He photographed some wearing glasses!
Kyle also did a photo essay of science fiction fans. He set up his screen, photographed anybody who came by, and then put the results up on the Web. (Click here to see.) They look fabulous. Every one of them. While simultaneously looking like the extremely eccentric people that fans are.
Reaction? Nothing but good.
If you'd told me that librarians, who are the guardians of civilization and the representatives of God's best thoughts on Earth would be crankier than science fiction fans (who are at best, let's face it -- and I got my picture taken then too, so I don't exempt myself -- umm,"eccentric") I'd have laughed in your face.
Yet, inexplicably enough, they are.
I have no moral to end this post with. But go and look at both groups of photos. Don't the subjects look great? This is what human beings really look like if you look at them without preconceptions. It turns out we're a pretty neat batch of people.
Above: Ingrid Abrams, a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library.