I was, however, drawn to taking a photo of the sign. Whether this would be considered graffiti or simply a defaced sign is neither here nor there as I would tend to think it’s a bit of both.
However, it did make me think that the role of photography can be a complex one, and is often taken for granted in countries or areas where there is a greater freedom to take photos.
Photography can capture moments and memories; it can shock by presenting the viewer with subjects that are not only unpalatable, but also challenging the viewer’s sensibilities; it can challenge authority as well as perpetuate propaganda; it can be truthful as well as being manipulated. However, it can also present a mischievous and humorous side of the photographer.
I was struck this week, along with many others, by the image of the kissing couple surrounded by the ice hockey riots in Vancouver after the final of the Stanley Cup game. Whether the image is ‘real’ or staged is really irrelevant. The image presents the viewer with the paradox of the riot violence with the intimate and tender kiss between lovers.
The act, and the photograph, not only challenges the violence of riot, but also is rather mischievous in the way that it is such a public display of intimacy amongst the surrounding violence.
While the defaced street sign probably doesn’t challenge society in the way of the kiss amongst the riot does, the image does represent a level of mischievousness in English society against authority and regulation. In a way, it does symbolise the paradox in human nature to control, but also subvert.