Allegory of the Cave

Allegory of the Cave - Mouth of Carlsbad Cavern as seen from within

Thanks to Bill and Ted, you don’t have to go to college to know about Socrates, but if you have, you have likely studied, to some extent, the work of his pupil, Plato. I recall visiting the Allegory of the Cave multiple times. Courses I took in English, Education, and (of course) Philosophy all covered it to some extent. Unlike some of that math I was told I would so desperately need, this allegory has made fairly frequent visits.

Okay, I am kidding about the math. To be fair, though, I am far more likely to deal with allegory than logarithmic functions.

Summarizing the Allegory

The link provided earlier does a good job of summarizing the allegory, but maybe you don’t care to watch it. The allegory describes the difficulty of explaining something to a person who has never experienced it for themselves. So much of modern struggles seem to revolve around this issue. The old clich√© of “walking a mile in their shoes” comes to mind. How can you understand why a person feels a certain way on a hot topic if you don’t take a moment to understand their “why”?

The family often jokes about my dislike of cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, and other orange foods. Carrots are fine. I like pumpkin. I drink orange juice. It isn’t about the color orange. In truth, I enjoy the occasional bite of cantaloupe. I like the taste and texture, but I hardly ever eat it. Insert the story about cantaloupe going bad in the refrigerator when I was a kid. As long as I don’t have to smell it, I’ll eat and enjoy it. Don’t bother with the sweet potatoes, though. Now that the family knows the story, they tend to park the cantaloupe on the far end of the table from my seat. And it is appreciated.

So What?

I know some very good photographers that I would absolutely trust with my daughter (if I had one) who have been accused of some grotesque behavior. Half the stories come from other photographers who heard it from someone who heard it from someone else. Multiple times, a rumor gets started off of a fraction of a story that has no basis in truth. It is pretty rare that the story comes straight from the source. When it does, word tends to travel fast.

Models should feel comfortable reporting bad behavior. They should be empowered and supported in honest efforts to weed out the creeps. When multiple models all share the same story about the same person, the community should take note and, when possible, take action.

At the same time, rumor mongers should be treated the same as the creeps. Models deserve to do their work feeling safe, secure, and able to be at their creative best. Photographers who help maintain this environment should be lauded. That requires models to be equally vocal about the “good photographers” with whom they would happily work again.

Acting on the Allegory

When you hear a rumor, treat it like the shadows on the cave walls. When you hear about a good photographer, treat it like the shadows on the cave walls. For your safety and the health of the creative community, always check references before working with a different photographer. When all goes well, share the good news and refer your friends to them.

Word of mouth is king. Support your favorite photographers by sharing your appreciation of their professional behaviors with others.

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