Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hartford, 1979
Philip-Lorca diCorcia

I think this is one of the most powerful images I've seen. It seems almost solidly still - calmly banal but filled with emotion. This picture doesn't attack or offend or shock, but it screams a silence at me. We see a man, staring out a window. He seems entirely detached from his surroundings, searching, beyond our view. We see a man that seems an icon of american society, a pioneer of that american dream. Dressed in suit and tie, early or late, with coffee and cigarette he is here, at this moment, searching for something else. Here, we see a man that is sad.
I find myself following his gaze. I notice a tree creeping into the frame. Looking closely, I see there are little buds - it must be spring. It looks black against the fading sun. Then I notice a potted plant in the man's house, an all year green lit yellow in an artificial light.
The man lives higher than his neighbours. The staging of the photograph places us at an imaginary point, floating outside his apartment, looking at him, who in turn is looking for something else. The brick facade of his apartment takes over half of our framed view - takes priority over the natural world in the background.

Otto Steinert

I chose the photograph “A Pedestrian Walking” by Otto Steinert, taken in 1951 in Paris. Steinert was a founding member of Fotoform and throughout his life espoused the idea of “subjective photography”, which values the photographer's personal interpretation and vision, often in abstract forms, over documentary realism. While personally I believe that both forms of photography is important I do think that the photograph highlights the fact that the medium can go beyond simply framing a snapshot of a moment in time, to creating images that one simply cannot otherwise see.

The photograph is impressive on a technical level for the difficulty involved with getting the right shutter speed to blur just the body of the pedestrian while leaving his leg sharp, and I believe is excellently composed with the solidity of the tree contrasting the pedestrian. Though the image is composed of mundane everyday objects - footpath, road, tree and pedestrian, it is framed in such as way as to create abstract shapes with them, and ironically, while the photograph captures movement, the overall image feels static.