The Digital Journalist
Eric Gottesman If I Could See Your Face I Would Not Need Food

I came to photography because I was interested in civil and human rights; it was through my interest in exploring how people define themselves that I have come to appreciate the formal aspects of photographs. I was never schooled in photography but learned most of what I know from working in the field and from mentors. In Ethiopia, I began a project about the impact of HIV and set out to photograph the lives of the people there in the same way I might photograph my family, but this plan failed. Many people had not told their families of their HIV status. I began instead to conduct interviews and make anonymous portraits. Still some participants worried that I would manipulate the images to show their faces. So I used a Polaroid camera, and we'd look together at the photographs and decide whether their faces were truly hidden. I called my project "Ka Fitfitu Feetu" after a Amharic proverb which translates as "If I could see your face, I would not need food."

I believe in photographic methods that give the "subjects"-or "participants"-control over their own images. This series of photographs is an example of how I used collaboration to explore power relationships between subject, viewer, and photographer. It also is an example of valuing photography not only as an end product but as a process that affects communities where the work is made.