As I walk to class, I notice the woman walking in front of me and think to myself, "This is my chance." My chance to follow this woman for a few minutes while she walks the same route I do to Drexel University's campus in order to complete the assignment. I could easily take out my phone, snap a few stealthy photos, and follow her to her destination. I could tell she was student due to her backpack. She had black tights, boots, and a medium-heavy jacket on with her hair in a ponytail. It would be an easy follow and a completed project; however, I could not find myself to take out my phone and watch. I also found myself not being able to stare at her anymore because I felt uncomfortable on her behalf. Why?
According to Jean Baudrillard, the art of following anyone is like a mirror. You lose the sense of yourself by "being absent" and following the other's path. The path means something to the creator, but it means nothing to the follower. While I followed that woman for a few minutes, I was too distracted with my own concerns and make-believing the woman's concerns that I was not able to think of the path I was following. While the follower shoots the photos, they are supposed to leave their path "untraceable." The follower was never there. This whole concept makes me feel uncomfortable. I am bothered that I am consuming her public space. I was following her path and I was supposed to document that path by taking a photo, but I was not able to bring myself to take those photos. I put myself within the path-creator's shoes. I would not like someone to take photos of me while being unaware of the follower's presence. I believe it is an invasion of personal space, even though she is walking on a public sidewalk and it's legal to do. But the pre-existing thought that I was going to follow this woman to her destination did not sit right with me because it felt too personal.
The woman's path was becoming untraceable by my footsteps. I was conquering her path and becoming her real-life shadow. Another idea that Jean Baudrillard brings up is that "shadowing" can bring an element of surprise. When the person turns around, do they notice that they have been followed? If I was being followed, I automatically think in terms of the dark side of following. Maybe I watched too many Law and Order episodes, but when I feel I am being followed, I automatically think of danger. Baudrillard compares the "shadow" as protection from the sun. However, I see the shadow as or the follower as an invader of your public space.
Mattress Factory: Traces of Memory by Chiharu Shiota