Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Post: Distortion

Man Ray: Marchesa Luisa Casati, 1922; Le Violon d'Ingres, 1924

Photography does not have to be a close representation of what you actually saw. It can be what you wish you saw, should have seen, and how you remember what you saw. Man Ray's photographs play with fantasy, puns, and surrealism in the way that one's imagination does. He doesn't talk with his eyes, or his literary mind but with his fantasy.

First Post: This couple was too special for the last post.

Diane Arbus: Two Men Dancing at Drag Ball, 1970

Facial expression is important here, but the body position is even more important. I once wrote a poem about this picture. This picture also reminds me of the prom. There is a good story behind every unwanted encounter.
First Post:

(Counterclockwise from top left): Bill Brandt, Evening in Kenwood, 1931-5; Diane Arbus, Young Man and Girlfriend with Hotdogs in the Park, 1971; Robert Doisneau, Be-Bop en Cave 1951; Diane Arbus, Teenage Couple on Hudson Street, 1963; Robert Doisneau, Kiss by Hotel de Ville, 1950; Robert Doisneau, The Bunch of Daffodils;

Each one of these photographs tells a story, depending on the subject and even the photographer, you can tell a lot about the story behind the photograph. Diane Arbus photographed what she considered freaks, so what was off about the couples here? You know what she set out to do, you assume that she did it so you are compelled to look closely at the photograph, pay attention to the subject and try to put the story together.

I love the conformity of Evening in Kenwood. It's such a great representation of youth. Of humanity really. We all want to have sex, or at least get close to it while our clothes are still on in the park.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

First Post: The Photograph's impact on its audience

The Associated Press NBC News, 1968; Nick Ut, 1972

These photographs inspired me to look for deeper meaning in my work. To me, art is not really useful without a cause. It has to impact the viewer, to provoke thought or challenge his or her opinion. A lot of wartime photographs are meant to do this but I think that the ones that do it the best are the ones where you can actually see the faces of the people in the photographs. You can see what they feel like, and they seem more human, less like an image.

First Post: Facial Expression and Light

Bill Brandt: Miners Returning to Daylight, South Wales; Window in Osborn Street; both 1931-5

Brandt's London scenes are real. They don't just convey a meaning but each one also tells a story. I admire his eye for such scenes. The way the subjects are perfectly in synch with their setting, tells a story. The way the light hits them, contributes to the story. The contrast, the shapes, the faces all work together flawlessly.
First Post: Portrait

Harry Callahan: Eleanor, Chicago 1947

I love a unique take on the portrait, while I don't always agree with Callahan's photographs, looking at the big picture, his photographs are a story of love and dedication that border on affectionate obsession. His photographs of his wife are countless but this is, in my opinion, the best one. The solid gray of her skin, barely visible fingernails even, a simple face, and yet there's something so modern, dreamy, and beautiful about this portrait. He just had to love her.

First Post: Chicken

Frederick Sommer Chicken Entrails 1939

Sandra Cisneros once said that she writes about the ugliest things she can think of. Yet all her works are beautiful. Sommer's Chicken Entrails is similar It's a natural object, yet the way the light reflects off of the wet entrails. The tonal variation of the blood, tissue, and bone. It's as if it were a myriad of brilliant colors, colors only seen in black and white. This inspired me to play with tonal difference more and deviate from my usual high contrast pictures.

First Post: Photographing the Seemingly Intangible

William Bentley: Snowflakes 1902

When I first saw this picture, I realized that it is possible (with enough effort) to see whatever you want to see. More importantly to show the world and keep the sight with you forever. Bentley wanted to see snowflakes and while to many it was impossible, he did it. For me, I grew up wanting to see the woods, to see the menacing icicles that hung off the cliffs on philadelphia drives (for those of you unfamiliar with the city, east and west river drives, kelly drive, and lincoln drive). I wanted to venture into the forest beside lincoln drive, to peer into the ice cold Schuylkill and see if I could find bodies, or fish, or simply my own reflection. I peered out my mom's car window for years wondering what was out there, in between the tangle of trees. I imagine Bentley felt the same way wondering about the identity of each tiny white crystal that fell in front of him, landing in his hand and then disappearing before he could lean in to see. Yet Bentley found what he was looking for. I did too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

First Post: Blossfelt

Karl Blossfeldt: Maidenhair Fern and Laserwort

When I first saw Blossfelt's work I thought I had found my long lost soul mate of a past life. Who else sees the beauty in a fern like he does? Who else appreciates the line of the Laserwort, it's luminosity when magnified seems like some sort of heavenly burst, or fireworks. I do. Ansel Adams photographed big picture scenes of national parks and deserts. To me, that's not how nature is meant to be enjoyed. That's like someone buying cheap, light olive oil to keep their eggs from sticking to the pan when they were too lazy to venture to the dairy aisle for butter. Olive oil shouldn't be used with such a utilitarian purpose. It's not canola oil, it's got flavor, something you can't just see while looking at the bottle, you have to get up close, open the bottle, smell, and taste. Similarly, you can't just look at a forest from afar, you have to get up close, trace it with your fingers. Observe how it's different and unique from everything around it. Just like a person even.
First Post:

Richard Avedon: both, Rudolf Nureyev 1961

I love viewing these pictures together. I love that Avedon chose to photograph Nureyev in a simple, vulnerable stance and while dancing in an expressive pose. It really showcases the multifaceted beauty of Nureyev's ability and vice versa.

Richard Avedon: Dovima with Elephants 1955

Dovima's presence among the elephants is graceful as her presence always is. Yet her touching the elephants combined with their almost synchronized, equally graceful movements makes the viewer wonder if it was her grace and elegance that was able to tame such lumbering creatures.
While Avedon's celebrity and fashion photographs are first used as a representative of a familiar figure, they also go beyond that. They don't simply reproduce a face or a body, but (at the risk of sounding cliché) a soul and an ability. This is rarely captured in celebrity photos, especially editorial and journalistic work.

I'm Not Envious of Other People's Photographs, I'm Envious of Their Thinness

This assignment is rather impossible for me. I've never actually looked at another photographer'sphotograph and thought, I wish I had taken that. Never. Not ever. Aside from me generally not being envious of people on the regular, the reasoning behind this is that I know I could not take those pictures. I cannot take a photo taken by Mapplethorpe because I am not Mapplethorpe. I do not have his eye, his mind. If I were Mapplethorpe, Mapplethorpe would probably be known asthe most controversial arborphilliac in art history. I guess then, it's not that I don't wish I'd taken other people's photographs, it's that I do not think that's possible. That said, this assignment is going to be of photographs I have been inspired by.