Good art provokes the senses, which is why I am fascinated by my personal reaction to the People of Walmart blog. Have you seen it? Time Magazine writes, “[People of Walmart] catalogs the gloriously absurd attire that is sported by the big-box retailer’s customer base.”
As I scroll through the site, I feel anxious & uncomfortable. I see pictures of people who look drugged out, confused, or generally unaware that they are being photographed via mobile phone. It’s easy to laugh without context, but it seems so unfair to pick on people when they can’t defend themselves or explain their actions.
I’ll admit this much: I saw an image of a fat woman in sweatpants and thought, There but for the grace of God go I.
Now I’ll admit something else: I am a total hypocrite. When I travel, I like to take pictures of fat guys, drinking beer, and walking around without t-shirts. It’s one of my favorite photographic subjects because it’s both ubiquitous and ridiculous at the same time. I see these guys in every town and I want to yell, “Put your shirt on, dude, before I go blind!”
So what do you think about the internet and voyeurism? Is it okay to photograph people without their consent? Is it okay to publish those pictures? When you visit People of Walmart, do you laugh?