‘ANONYMOUS’ by Rafael Díaz
‘What I may see or hear in the course of the treatment or even outside of the treatment in regard to the life of men, which on no account one must spread abroad, I will keep to myself holding such things shameful to be spoken about’. Hippocratic Oath (fragment), late 5th century BC
‘I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email’. Edward Snowden (video statement), 2013
In an age when technology allows to search through vast databases containing the private emails, online chats, browsing histories and social media activity of millions of individuals with no prior authorization, can anyone be anonymous anymore? The ‘Anonymous’ series ponders about the ethical limits in the mining and trading of private information by individuals, corporations and governments, and the transgression of every person’s fundamental right to privacy made in the name of national security, corporate profit or personal gain. And it does so from the singular perspective of an artist who is also a doctor, therefore bound to privacy by doctor-patient confidentiality, a fundamental principle of medical ethics which dates back to the Hyppocratic Oath and allows the medical practitioner to diagnose and treat illness based on information given to them by the patient in confidence – information about the patient’s state of vulnerability and their lifestyle which must be kept secret to safeguard the patient’s dignity. ‘Anonymous’ is made up of a series of photographs of people whose identity is protected through the use of light and shadows. The people featured in the photographs are non-professional models, regular people I approached and recruited on the street for this specific project, who agreed to participate under the premise that their identity would be kept hidden – a mutual understanding that allowed them to expose themselves as they are during the photo shoot, human and vulnerable, not unlike the patients in my medical practice. If a portrait is a representation of a person in which the face and its expression is predominant, these photographs are quite the opposite: non-portraits of sorts, where the models’ likeness, personality and mood are purposefully concealed to both honor my commitment to kept their anonymity and denounce the continuous violation of people’s right to privacy that is most commonplace nowadays.