Click. You probably heard that sound (and spotted a couple of other inaccuracies concerning cameras and photography) more than you would have liked to in Closer. But if the stock Foley and factual errors don’t deter you from discussing the movie, welcome here. Let’s talk about the movie’s adulterous photographer Anna Cameron for a while.
Anna likes shooting strangers and including their photographs in her exhibits. Some of the subjects in her photos are obviously distraught, but as one character in the movie points out, it’s not the suffering that the viewer sees but the beauty that they expect to see. Thus any expression of pain is admired rather than pitied, and whether it is Anna’s intention or not, the photographs reassure the viewer that life is beautiful despite all of the suffering there is to be experienced.
Not everyone is pleased with Anna’s exhibit though. “Everyone loves a big fat lie,” says Alice Ayres, another character in the movie. She candidly refers to Anna’s photos as lies, insinuating that Anna is a liar for taking photos reassuring people that life is beautiful.
But, honestly, no one can tell for sure what Anna’s intentions are when she takes photographs—or whether she wants her work to lie about life or not. We can be sure of only a few things about her: She is an American photographer who’s far away from home. She likes going to the aquarium to shoot strangers. And when she takes photos, she usually maintains a certain amount of distance between her and her subjects.
I certainly don’t think Anna ever wanted her photographs to lie about anything. Seeing her interact with her environment, I sense a deep loneliness and insecurity that has completely taken over her life, and the emotions inevitably permeate her work. The way she forms her relationships is comparable to the way she takes photographs of total strangers—the way she takes a part of other people’s lives without bothering to completely know them. She wants to be close with others, but she can’t help building a wall between her and everybody else.
The very same wall that Anna builds exists for some of us, but its purpose isn’t always to create a lie. Street photographers, for example, will get closer to their subjects but avoid being too close: to guarantee the spontaneity of their subjects’ actions and expressions, both amateur and professional street photographers often limit their interaction with whatever they will photograph. And, really, we wouldn’t have it any other way.