Diane Arbus Revelations

Diane Arbus Revelations (2003). Exhibition Catalogue. Random House Publishing Group.

This book accompanies the exhibition of Arbus’ work by the same name that occurred between 2004 and 2006 in the U.S.A, Germany and London.

The book can be broken down in to three main sections and contains  illustrations based on many of her photos, as well as extracts from her notebooks and correspondence.

The main part of the book is almost an autobiography as it includes extracts from Arbus’ correspondence with family, friends and colleagues; including some of the most renowned photographers and editors of her time. This section covers from 1923 though to her suicide in 1971.

The other main parts of the book are an essay concerning the significance of her work and a description of the techniques she used and the attempt to replicate these by Neil Selkirk following her death. This replication was done as part of producing a book and exhibition that followed her death.

The exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco in 2004 contained roughly 190 of her prints.

Diane Arbus was fascinated by people, particularly where there was something different about them. The body of her work clearly shows this, with very few landscape or still life images. I can’t imagine myself producing work likes hers, simply because of the amount of interaction that would be required with individuals and groups of people.

For me the best part of this book is the opportunity to read Diane Arbus’ own words from postcards, letters and notebooks. Reading what she wrote gives an insight to her mind and personality. Something that hasn’t been as apparent from other works I’ve read about her. The opportunity to read her words provides a chance to try to understand the thought processes and urges that drove someone very important to photography. Being able to do this without going through other people’s filters gives a different perspective.

The other part of the book that I found interesting to read was the extract from her autopsy report. Reading this adds another dimension to her story, something that has been missing from other books and articles.

Seeing the autopsy report contrasts with reading her words in that it turns Arbus into an anonymous female and then into a pile of human organs, devoid of any individuality or personality. It brings home the fact that, regardless of who we are, how wealthy we are, how talented we are; we are at the heart of it a bag of skin that keeps a jumble of bones and organs from flopping all over the place. An organic mass that when animated allows us to move about, manipulate things and shape the world around us; as well as allowing us the chance to document that world through a variety of means that link to our senses.

Feedback on Assignment 4

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

You’ve identified a topical theme (plastic waste) and approached it in a consistent and methodical manner.

From the contact sheets I can see you’ve tried moving the image around in the frame and settled upon a central composition which firmly situates the object but leaves little room for the eye to move around the scene. Whilst this can be a strategy within your work, consider how changing the angle of view might have led to a different relationship to the object.

I’m thinking here of Andy Hughes’s images of waste from beaches around the world. In one image, a lighter is discarded and left upright in the sand, shot from ground level looking up towards the lighter it becomes a kind of monolith and has an impending sense of doom which echoes Hughes’ concerns as an environmental advocate.

The image of the dead bird is very striking as are some of the more abstract compositions of waste from the beach. It would have been good to change the set up a little and add some visual interest to the series by including some of these.

The dead bird was something I would have liked to use but I didn’t think it would fit in with the theme, especially with the number of images we were able to use. I had been contemplating using it as part of a series on dead wildlife/road kill. However, by changing the emphasis on the project to things that are abandoned means I could utilise the images of the bird as well as some of the images of feral cats that I took in Cyprus.  Contrasting things that have been abandoned by man with things that have been abandoned naturally through death, like the bird, or allowing things to get out of control, like the large number of feral cats.

Some of the images look a bit on the dark side and could benefit from some brightening – consider applying a curve and cleaning up some of the yellow/brown tones that spread across the set.

Curves are a really powerful tool for doing this in Photoshop. Have a look through some of Adobe’s online tutorials (beginner > advanced) and find one suitable. Start practicing the application of curves and keep track of before and after shots to see how much better your images becomes once you learn to use them.

The changes I make to images using the curves tool in Lightroom are quite basic so I really need to look at getting more proficient with using tools like this if I’m going to get the best from my photos.

Have you thought much about how you might present or showcase this work and what format would best suit it?

I’d not given thought to how to showcase this work. Contemplating how to showcase it I think I’d want to go down the exhibition route. At the moment I have two sets of images, one from Norfolk, the other from Cyprus. I think it would be good to have another couple of sets of images from other places, preferably countries in order to highlight the global scale of the issue. I also think that continuing with the link to bodies of water: the sea, lakes and rivers, would be a good way to link them together. Taking into account the suggestions above about changing perspective and composition there would be an obvious progression to the images produced.

I also intend to complete a PADI open water diving qualification over the summer and following on from there a 2 day Underwater Photography course, when it’s next run at the diving centre. Diving is something I’ve not done since I was at Polytechnic but it was fun and I enjoyed it. Combining that with my photography seems like a great way to take things forward and add a new element to my work.

Learning Logs

Context

It would be good to see reference to some contemporary examples of photographic work (see recommendations below) and your thoughts in response to it. Beware of reading too many technical/how-to style photography books. Whilst these are helpful in mastering technique, they rarely discuss the wider context of the work produced or the language of photography itself.

I’ve noticed that in recent months I’m picking up more books that highlight the work done by various photographers as well as giving some background to their lives.

I’m currently working my way through Diane Arbus – Revelations, which in addition to a chronology of her work based around her notebooks, letters and other writing, also includes essays concerning the relevance of her work and another on the techniques and methods that she used. This carries on from my earlier interest in Arbus and her work.

I’ve also  just finished reading Women War Photographers: From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus, something I picked up after coming across the work of Gerda Taro. I have books about Taro and her relationship with Robert Capa on my current reading list.

Also just added to my reading list is the exhibition catalogue for Mandy Barker’s Altered Ocean exhibition, which I didn’t manage to visit when it was on in Bristol. In September I’ll be visiting the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the National Portrait Gallery as I have to be in London for a workshop related to my day job.

Suggested reading/viewing

Context

Andy Hughes – http://www.andyhughes.net/

Looking at Hughes website and the particularly the projects page (http://www.andyhughes.net/site/projects-2-2/) there are a number of images that leap out at me.

The first is the image of the figure that is surrounded by orange paint splodges. The splodges remind me of caterpillars or millipedes. Looking at this image it reminds me that no matter how great mankind thinks it is, even the smallest of creatures will overwhelm us eventually. We might be able to shape our world to suit us but we all face the prospect of being “worm food” eventually.

The second image that leapt out at me was of the discarded condom. Looking at it reminds me of Lampreys. The abandoned condom could be seen to symbolise how mankind attaches itself to the planet and feeds on it. If we are careful we won’t destroy our host, if we aren’t then we could kill it and then have to find another host to latch on to. Except in our case, we don’t have another host to move on to.

Like the lighter image mentioned in the feedback above, the image of the lightbulb (http://www.andyhughes.net/site/portfolio-2/uncategorized/italy-cities-cultural-heritage-digital-humanities/) shows how changing perspective alters how things appear. I love the way that the curved shape of the bulb mirrors the curved ceiling.

Finally I love the images where Hughes as placed an upside down bottle on a object, like a stick, giving the impression that something is pouring out of the bottle.

I think Hughes’ book Dominant Wave Theory will be something I add to my reading list.

Edward Burtynsky  – Anthropocene Project: https://www.edwardburtynsky.com/projects/the-anthropocene-project/

The trailer for Anthropocene: The Human Epoch is interesting and brings the effect that we are having on the world around us, and the creatures that inhabit it with us, home. The final show of the piles of elephant tusks being burned is particularly shocking. How many hundreds of elephants perished just so people could have the ivory from their tusks?

Mandy Barker – Altered Ocean: http://www.rps.org/exhibitions-and-competitions/mandy-barker

 I can’t really comment on Barker’s Altered Ocean exhibition. From the little I’ve seen of it, image-wise, it looks impressive. I’ve ordered the exhibition catalogue and am looking forward to viewing the work that she has produced that way.

Dead Bird

I had a bit of time to take another look at the images of the dead bird. In the end I decided that only one of the ones I’d originally used I still liked and two of the images that I’d rejected I preferred.

I’ve included these below.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7917

This is one of the original images I considered using but didn’t include in the final selection. I’ve adjusted the image so that you can see some of the markings.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7915

This image was one I rejected initially but on revisiting decided it was better than the full body image. I like this image because it has the whole of the birds head and you can just about make out some of the ants that were crawling on the dead body. Again I adjusted the image so that the white and black flecks are visible.

Assignment 4 - Bird-7916

If I was to select one of these images to use then it would be this one. Although it doesn’t have the full beak and one of the ants from the previous image has moved out of shot, you can still see other ants, particularly the ones that are crawling over the eye area. You might have to look closely to see them, black ants on black feathers don’t stand out massively.

Once again I adjusted the image so that the white flecks among the black are visible. I think the level of detail with the feathers and the inside of the beak are something I’m really happy with and if I was to display this as part of an exhibition then I’d want it to be at least A4 size in order to allow for some of the details to be seen clearly.

Comments on other people’s work

Here are links to some of the comments I’ve made on other student’s work, courtesy of WordPress “Comments I’ve Made” feature. I’ll aim to build on this as I comment on people’s work or find other comments I’ve made that WordPress isn’t showing me.

A Question on Gender and Identity

Narrative – Exercise 3.3 – Sequence

The Pain of Making Self Portraits

Assignment one – Square Mile: rework final images

My Anorexia Recovery and Self Care

 

Some initial ideas for Responding to a Theme

Lunch by the sea
Lunch by the Sea

Last summer I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the 4th assignment in the course. The theme was man’s impact on the environment and with that in mind I took some photos while out walking near the sea while we were in Norfolk.

I don’t think that the photos meet the brief for a still life, however, they did give help me refine some ideas around what I wanted to do.

Although my original intention to collect some of the things that people leave on a beach and use them to make a still life didn’t happen, it’s amazing how clean beaches can be at the end of the season, during a recent run in the countryside I noticed so much rubbish that people just abandon. Looking at some of the items it’s not people accidentally dropping things, it’s people deliberately throwing them from vehicles.

So the next time I go out that way for a run will be with a rucsack and some gloves to collect the more interesting items that I can then use to make some still lifes from.

Shape of Light

From the 2nd May to the 14th October 2018 at the Tate Modern.

Tickets £18 at time of visit.

Introduction

“The world we see is made of light reflected by the things we look at: Photography records this light, holding and shaping these fleeting images. Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art explores the history of artists who have worked with light to create abstract work. These photographers prioritise shape, form and expression over recognisable subject matter. Some use the camera lens to transform reality. Others work with photographic materials to create images with little obvious reference to the real world.

Shape of Light reveals photography’s role in a wider history of abstraction. The photographic artists in the exhibition have engaged with advances in abstract art across a range of art forms; from painting and sculpture, to film and installations. At times these photographers have responded to new discoveries by their peers working in different media. Occasionally they have pre-empted them.”

The above description is from the leaflet that you receive on entry to the exhibition.

Every trip I’ve had to London recently I’ve told myself that I’d visit the Tate Modern to have a look around. At the end of July, I managed to do that, but only for an hour in between other activity.

Tate Modern is an impressive building, huge and spacious, it would be easy to spend a day wandering around.

While a lot of exhibits are free some exhibitions incur a cost, this is the case with the Shape of Light.

At the time of visiting there were several exhibitions, including one about Picasso and another by Joan Jonas. It was the Shape of Light, however, that I wanted to see.

The exhibition space consists of 12 rooms, each with a different theme.

This review will not be comprehensive but will focus on some of the artwork that drew my attention.

But first, I want to share something from the day.

I wasn’t visiting the exhibition on my own, my partner was with me as we were away for her birthday. I was expecting her to get bored quickly, but I was surprised when she started looking at various artworks and commenting on them.

Martha Hoepffner’s Homage to Kandinsky she described as looking like a boat, while the piece alongside it looked like a guitar.

The piece below, looked like SpongeBob SquarePants and a tree.

20180728_121152

Another photo alongside Constantin Brancusi’s Maiastra looked like it included penguins.

With this terrible influence on me I found myself seeing different things in photographs, something that team behind the exhibition were encouraging in the Activity section of the leaflet when they stated “Photography is all about finding new ways of looking… Does looking differently change how you think about the artwork?” In this case it certainly inspired a new way of looking.

Throughout the exhibition there were works by artists whose names I recognised.

Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents provided four images, of which three are shown below. This project was one that took 8 years and resulted in over 300 photos of clouds.

These particular images struck a chord with me because I’d recently come across an article about cloud formations, and had read something about Stieglitz’s cloud images. Having taken a cloud photograph a few years ago that I was particularly proud of it was nice to know that even great photographers do similar work at times and is something I might do for the Emulation exercise later in part 4 of the course.

The series of images above was also interesting and shows how capturing something in an abstract way changes how it’s seen. The images are part of a series called Bodies and are by Bill Brandt. They were taken on beaches and appear to be rocks and large pebbles. In fact, on closer inspection it is possible to see that they are parts of peoples bodies. The top left is someone’s bent legs, the top right is a close up of a mouth and nose.

The above photograph was where my mind started to go into overtime. At first the two blobs in this chemigram by Pierre Cordier looked like pandas to me. After seeing it a few times they now look like Teddy Bears, one which is wearing a bowler hat. Facing them are either rats, dogs lying down or Falkor, the luckdragon, from The NeverEnding Story.

The exhibition comes with a catalog. Published by Tate Publishing in 2018 and entitled Shape of Light – 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art ISBN 978 1 84976 369 1.

The exhibition is well worth a visit if you are interested in photography and especially how it can be used for abstract art. I found it very inspirational, especially seeing  work that some photographers and artists have done, which I could use as part of developing my own photography and finding my own personal photographic voice. I also wish I’d had more time to wander around the exhibition as I don’t feel that I got everything I could have from it. At some point I have to arrange a trip to London with the express purpose of visiting the Tate Modern and spending the day wandering around.

Seals

We spent the start of July in Norfolk, only for the weekend but it gave enough time to visit different parts of the area we were staying.

On the Sunday we visited Blakeney Point on a boat trip to see the seals that can be found there.

In total I took about 100 photos, a lot of which didn’t quite come out. I’d had my camera in aperture mode but with hindsight should have switched to shutter priority and dialed the speed to something that would allow for the rocking of the boat.

Finding yourself in the right position to capture a shot wasn’t a simple matter. Although I’d sat right in the stern of the boat, the skipper was turning the boat around in circles at times in order to give the passengers on both sides of the vessel the chance to see the seals.

Having done a first pass through the images and filtering out those that weren’t in focus, I made a second pass downselecting to a set that were in focus and which I thought were interesting, after all there’s only so many ways you can photographs a row of seals from the same angle.

Post-processing has involved cropping images, adjusting saturation and vibrance and making adjustments using the tone curve. The results can be seen below. I’m trying out the Link to “None” option when inserting images .

 

 

 

Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer

Lubow, A. (2016) Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer. Great Britain: Jonathan Cape (Part of Penguin Random House group)

Diane Arbus is an American photographer, born on the 14th March 1923, she died on the 26th July 1971 after taking an overdose of barbituates and slashing her wrists.

One of the most talented photographers of her generation, her peers were people like Robert Franks, Richard Avedon, she is known for her photographs of people who were on the margins of society. Sideshow freaks, nudists, transgender people (although this was before the term was coined), and others who were outside what was thought normal.

Arbus sought out the unusual, the ugly, the different in her subjects.

All through her career Diane Arbus struggled, never making enough money to be comfortable, she found herself resorting to undertaking photographic assignments in order to be able to keep her head above water and provide for her two daughters Doon and Amy.

Even so, she was able to find the time and opportunities to take the photos that she wanted.

Arbus was never totally satisfied with her work and never gave herself the credit she deserved, and that others gave her.

Born into the Nemerov family, who owned Russek’s department store on Fifth Avenue, she grew up unaffected by the Great Depression that was going on at the time. In 1941 she married her childhood sweetheart Allan Arbus, and they worked together as fashion photographers, Allan being the photographer with Diane assisting him during shoots. Together they travelled around the world on assignments.

Eventually Allan gave up photography and turned to acting, being known for his role as Dr. Sidney Freedman, a psychiatrist, in the hit US series M.A.S.H.

While Allan turned to acting, Diane became the photographer.

Lubow’s book paints a picture of a woman who struggled throughout her life. Never fully believing in her success and just managing to keep things together.

Arbus had many friends and acquaintances, both male and female, some of which became lovers. Her relationships with some male friends being complex, especially, when they became involved with other people and even married.

Although Diane Arbus never got the recognition she deserved while alive, posthumously she achieved it. One of her photographs sold for over $750,000 some time after her death.

The book is an interesting insight into Arbus, her life, her struggles and even her thought processes at times.

It’s also not an easy or quick read, at over 730 pages, including acknowledgments and source citations.

Having finished the book, the thing that I take away from it the most is that, no matter how talented the photographer, whether amateur or professional, this field can be a struggle to be successful. It is also possible to be blind to your abilities and to have a lack of faith in yourself, despite what others tell you.

Arbus’ story also shows that you should always strive to do the work that you want, even if you have to do other things along the way.

Finally, it also shows just how important it is to be able to look at the world and see the beauty and fascinating in things that society would shy away from normally.

Dippy on Tour

My sister and my twin nieces (9 years old) were staying with us over half term. To keep them occupied we’d planned to do a couple of things with them. Dragging them geocaching, I mean treasure hunting, didn’t happen, although there was a lot of excitement when it came to hunting out Easter eggs. A planned visited to the Dorset County Museum, which they didn’t know about, to see Dippy the dinosaur did go ahead on a mainly dry if chilly Easter Monday.

Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure is the title of an exhibition touring the UK that is giving the nation the chance to view one of the best known dinosaurs in the country. Dippy the Diplodocus. The cast of the dinosaur has left its home at the Natural History Museum and is visiting a number of locations around the United Kingdom between now and October 2020.

First stop on the tour was Dorchester and the Jurassic Coast.

Although we’ve visited Dorchester a number of times over the years, this was the first time that we have ever visited this particular museum. Having booked tickets for the 2pm slot we were early arriving in Dorchester and so spent a bit of time wandering around.

Bypassing the Tutankhamun exhibition, which we’d never have got my Egyptian mad niece out of, we popped into a couple of shops; including Waterstones where I picked up a copy of Cecil Beaton: Portraits & Profiles. Beaton being a research topic in one of the exercises for Part 3 I thought I’d get a book I’d spotted in Waterstones, Bristol about him. Instead I ended up with this, at first skim through, a fascinating book of his portraits of various people; with his own written descriptions of them. Too late to use for Part 2, but just in time for the formal portrait exercise in Part 3.

Arriving at the museum just before 2pm, our tickets were checked, we were given stickers that would indicate that we had booked to see the rest of the museum as well as Dippy. Seeing the Diplodocus was free but the rest of the museum incurred a charge. Bags examined we made our way up a level to the gallery that surrounded the dinosaur cast.

It was packed.

Being the Easter weekend and also something that a lot of people aren’t going to get a chance to see again on their doorstep, lots of families had made the same decision as us. In fact we bumped into a friend and her family as well as a work colleague and his.

Dippy fills the large, open, two storey gallery in the museum. Its head is at one end, literally only inches from a glass screen where you can take photos of yourself with Dippy as the backdrop. At the other end the tail curves gently in order that it can fit within the area.

Dippy on Tour-6711
It’s behind you!

Dippy on Tour-6712

In work, a few days ago I was chatting with the colleague I’d seen and we found ourselves discussing whether we think the tail had been bent specifically to allow the skeleton to fit within the museum space, or whether it normally bends like that.

Around the gallery are numerous smaller exhibits, mostly fossils but in one cabinet there were a number of preserved birds. Plaques provide copious amounts of information for those that take the time to read them. Whoever curated the exhibition has done an incredible job.

After wandering around the upper gallery we went down to the lower level and were able to get a view of Dippy from underneath. The ground level being a larger area than the gallery it was less crowded and it was possible to get a better view of the Diplodocus skeleton. Around the room were a few more displays, a wooden dinosaur skeleton and a large picture of dinosaurs that you could stand in front of and have your photo taken.

Dippy on Tour-6723

Dippy on Tour-6728
Up Close and Personal

Dippy on Tour-6730

Seeing the remnants of one of these creatures its easy to imagine just how frightening it would be to have come across one in the flesh. Thank goodness they became extinct millions of years ago.

Moving on from the Dippy exhibition we made our way around the rest of the museum.

First stop was a couple of rooms. One contained a display consisting of a farm cart, some hand ploughs and a variety of farm implements. The second room was fitted out like the interior of a late 19th century, early 20th century house with bed, table and various household goods including an early bellows-type vacuum cleaner.

The remainder of the exhibition was on the upper floor of the museum, and we continued after a brief stop in the museum café.

First stop was the Jurassic room where there were more fossils and models of dinosaurs, including a life size fossil Ichthyosaur head and jaws as well as a model of the same as it would have looked in life. Very quickly I found myself left behind by the others.

Lots of families had taken advantage of the Bank Holiday and were visiting the museum, at one point I found myself chatting with a lady about her grandson who she had brought to the museum and who knew everything about dinosaurs that a young child could know, to the point that he corrected his gran when she got things wrong, something she delighted in doing just so he could share his knowledge with her.

The next few sections of the museum were devoted to local artists, poets, a large section about Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townsend Warner and several other authors. So much to see and read, I could have spent far longer than we had wandering around.

On the walls were a number of photographs from the 19th and early 20th century. Looking at a number of the photographs I found myself thinking about how they would have been taken, photographs of farmhands where they would have had to hold still while performing an action; like winding a handle on a machine, while the photographer took the photograph. Previously I would never have thought about what was involved in capturing images like these. Knowing more about the history of photography has given me a deeper appreciation for how these images were captured.

The final part of the museum was dedicated to ancient Britain and the Romans. Again lots of artefacts to look at and information to read. There was even a man and his daughter playing what appeared to be an ancient variant of chess.

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, there was a lot to see and when I have a bit more time spare I’ll go back and take a more leisurely wander around the museum, and maybe even make a day of it and visit some of the others dotted around the town.

 

 

Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf is a German born photograper and artist who lives and works in Paris and Hong Kong. Born in Muich in 1954, the focus of his work has been mega cities. His work has been exhibited around the world including the venice bienniale.

My Favourite Things

As part of the research for exercise 3.2 Series we were asked to look at Michael Wolf’s My Favourite Things.

In his project My Favourite Things Michael Wolf has captured a number of photographic series that each revolve around a single item. For instance mops, chairs, people, cats, plants, rubber gloves and many more.

Wolf’s work shows that if you just open your eyes to the world around you it is possible to find things to photograph. When you begin to look around, you soon begin to notice things. It’s like when you buy a car, you soon begin to spot other cars like it on the road as you drive about.

The series of images that Wolf groups together also highlights that when you do look at the world around you, it becomes obvious that people put things in the most unusual of places.

Exercise 3.2 Series can be found here.

References

  1. Wikipedia. Michael Wolf Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Wolf_(photographer) [Accessed 19th February 2018]
  2. Michael Wolf My Favourite Things Available at: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#my-favourite-thing-groups-2/1 [Accessed 19th February 2018]

The Americans

02 -The Americans
Cover of Robert Franks The Americans

Franks (2017), The Americans contains a series of photographs taken in 1955 and 1956 by the photographer.

The edition that I’ve read is very clean in its presentation. The book jacket has not details on the inside and in fact has the familiar photo of a group of people looking out of the window of a trolley bus.

Each photograph is on a single page, with the preceding page containing just the caption of the photo.

The book contains an introduction from the author and poet Jack Kerouac. Not having read anything by Kerouac but looking at his Wikipedia (2018) entry, his introduction seems to exhibit his style, poetic, almost free flowing, off the cusp, written in response to the photographs that follow.

The book is a snapshot of an America that has long gone. A peek back into history and a time where every country, and not just the USA, was rebuilding from a war that had engulfed the world.

The Civil Rights Movement was still in its infancy. Segregation of children by race had been ruled un-constitutional in 1954. In 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African-American from Chicago was lynched for an alleged interaction with a white woman. Later that year and into 1956, Rosa Parks came to prominence when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger, which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

One image that stands out for me is of a coloured woman holding a white baby. The caption reads “Charleston, South Carolina”.

02 - Charleston South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

An image like that today wouldn’t stand out as much. It could be a woman holding a friend’s baby while they chat on a street? But if looked at in the context of the time then its meaning changes. We can make assumptions about what we’re seeing but without being able to see outside the edges of the frame we cannot completely understand what we are seeing. Although we can be certain that either this photograph was taken from a distance without the subject’s knowledge or that the subject and the parents of the baby must have been aware of what was happening and been happy with it.

In a lot of the photographs the subject seems unaware that their image is being captured. In some of these there are wonderful moments when a person is staring directly at the camera. Letting you know that they are aware of what is happening and almost challenging the viewer by refusing to look away. Some of those gazes are direct and obvious, others, although still direct are not so obvious because of the distance between the person and the camera.

02- Courthouse Square
Courthouse Square, Elizabethville, North Carolina

As an introduction to the work of Robert Franks, I think that The Americans is very good. As a window on American society in the 1950s I think it’s excellent.

References

  1. Frank, R (foreward by Kerouac, J) (2017). The Americans. 11th edition Steidl (ISBN 978-3-86521-584-0)
  2. Wikipedia (2018) Jack Kerouac Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac [Accessed 4th March 2018]
  3. Wikipedia (2018) Wikipedia (2018) African-American civil rights movement (1954–1968) Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_civil_rights_movement_(1954%E2%80%931968) [Accessed 4th March 2018]