John Waters’ film ‘Pecker’ explores the pretentions of high art culture and the quirky nature of the townsfolk of Baltimore. Pecker photographs the day to day sights in his town and believes that art is everywhere, even within the act of two rats copulating.
The film successfully points out that one does not need professional skills and equipment to become a photographer, as Pecker uses a camera he found in his mother’s thrift store.
When his work is eventually spotted by Rory (a high-flying Art dealer) he is shot to fame and recognized by the elite New York art circle, who on seeing his prints, describe Pecker’s family as ‘culturally challenged’ and his work is regarded as an exploitative brand of irony.
The audience is made to think about the ethical issues that photographers face. When after being informed that his house has been robbed, Rory urges Pecker to photograph his parent’s despair. In this way Waters is using Rory as a tool to highlight the exploitative nature of photography, but rather than giving the New York art culture what it wants and expects, Pecker instead makes them the subjects of his next show. By subjecting these people to his camera he has also shown their humanity.
Pecker is a successful street photographer because of the way he captures images of those around him, but when considering the role of photography in today’s society I think that someone like Pecker would be faced with more challenges. Because of the advancement in technology, cameras are more accessible than ever before, and this has lead to a public awareness of the increased chance of themselves becoming subjects, a thought which many would be uncomfortable with.