This article is a repost of a guest blog I did for Rear Curtain. Rear Curtain is a great organization run by friends who are seriously passionate about telling stories. Do yourself a favor and check them out here
This is the final part of a three part series on how we can learn to relate to other cultures as photographers by embracing aspects of our own culture. Many struggle to realize that our own unique cultures are a good tool that can help us communicate and understand cross culturally. There is a correlation between understanding oneís own culture and engaging in a new and different one. Through embracing, valuing, and understanding our culture first, we can recognize and appreciate cultures that are not our own.
PART 3: PROCESS THE NEW THROUGH THE OLD
One thing that I’ve touched on in my previous two posts (Part 1 Part 2) on understanding new cultures through our own, is focusing on commonality in humanity as opposed to our differences. When we dissect culture we discover there are commonalities that exist from culture to culture despite their vast and easily noticeable differences. Even if your home culture looks nothing like that of the culture you are intending to go and photograph, trying to find commonality proves helpful in thinking the right way about culture.
The uniqueness of culture is often wrapped up in the things that all people, despite their location, do – eating, shopping, playing, family life, etc. Before we enter a new culture its a good idea to sit down and analyze these things in our own home culture. Think about what we do daily and why we do it, and what this says about us. This gives us a frame of reference for then viewing a new culture – what’s different about the way we do common things? Why? We are seeking to learn about the new through the lens of what we already know from the old. This is similar to learning a new language. We learn a new language based on the information from the one we already know. This idea gives us some hope for learning a new culture based on our own. We all have culture but are rusty or unfamiliar with how to speak the ‘language’ of culture. The very basics of that ‘cultural language’ is wrapped up in our commonalities.
Listed below are a few cultural commonalities that are healthy for photographers to observer in their own culture before entering a new one.