Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Helen Levitt

Helen Levitt was born August 31, 1913 and passed away March 29, 2009.  She is well known for her street photography throughout New York City.  The images of the children that I found for her seems to portray children that are very angry, or maybe even afraid.  The girl in the first picture appears to be worried, while the child next to her is trying to see through the window pane.  The directional force through angles in this photograph work well to create a space, story, and time.  The boys in the second picture appear to be angry or after someone.   They seem to be holding something in their hands, and I can only hope it is not guns.  I wonder if these are scenes that have been set up by the artist, or if she's portraying real life where children live in such fear and anger.  We can only expect a horrible future for these kids if this is not an act.  However, it is their struggle for survival. 

Danny Lyon

                                                Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement

Danny Lyon was born March 16, 1942.  He taught himself photography.  He completed separate documentary studies that were made into books.  The first picture of "The Movement" series symbolizes the strife that continued during the Civil Rights Movement.  Such a photograph could not be posed, as the reactions in the picture are real and terrifying at the same time.  The second photograph followed a series study on the "Conversations With The Dead" series that took place in multiple Texas prisons.  The idea was to portray the real life of prison hardships and loss of freedoms.  The image of the lined men, stripped and placed outdoors stands as a strong image, as most would probably feel embarassed and mortified to have to be stripped down in front of everyone.  The loss of rights is prevalent here. 

Sally Mann

                                                         Sally Mann, Black Eye 1991
                                                 Sally Mann, Jessie and the Dear. 1984

Sally Mann was born May 1, 1959.  She is known for her photographs of her young children as well as landscape portraits.  I believe that "The Black Eye" is so successful for me simply  because of the wingback chair and the shapes, shadows, and lines it creates in the picture.  This photo definitely doesn't look like it was taken in the 90's, but perhaps the artist set it up to look that way.  "Jessie And The Deer" is also visually interesting because of the small pretty girl in a Sunday dress posing next to a dead deer.  We can probably guess that she lives in the country.  However, even though she is standing next to such a sad thing, she is still posing and smiling for the camera.  This shows a state of normalcy for her, as she seems to be unaffected by the situation. 

Robert Mapplethorpe

Derrick Cross & Friends,1982

Robert Mapplethorpe, Derrick Cross, 1983, stampa in gelatina d’argento / gelatin silver print,
50.8 x 40.6 cm

Robert Mapplethorpe was born November 4, 1946 and passed away March 9, 1989.  He is widely known for his compositions of nude men.  I must say thin that I was upset with some of his work, as he lost the art in the pictures and instead created a far jump over to pornography.  Specifically, I found one of his works consisting of a close of a hand grabbing an erect penis.  There is no story or art about that.  It is simply the artists fascination with the sexual desire.  However, I did find some of his pieces that I liked.  I enjoyed the contrast and lights and darks working throughout the man's back in the first picture.  It resembled very similarly the famous picture of the pepper for me.  I also enjoyed the rhythm created with the body shapes in the second photograph.  I think that the movement is very nice. 

Mary Ellen Mark

                                                National Circus of Vietnam, Lenin Park, Hanoi, North Vietnam 1994

                                                       National Circus of Vietnam, Lenin Park, Hanoi, North Vietnam 1994

Mary Ellen Mark was born March 20, 1940.  When looking through her portfolio, I found that she did multiple studies of the circus in different countries.  I found that I really enjoyed her work, as it displayed a much happier tone and was full of interesting viewpoints and unexpected surprises- such as the standing dogs in picture one-.  Her use of light and dark, as well as shadow angles against deep perspective points created very dramatic scenes, while still somewhat whimsical.  The contrast of geometric shapes on the walls and floors make the figures stand apart in the pictures. 

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Lucybelle Crater and Close Friend Lucybelle Crater in the Grape Arbor (1971)

Ralph Eugene Meatyard was born May 15, 1925 and passed away May 7, 1972 at age 46.  Meatyard is known for creating photographs using dolls or masks as props.  I must say that after looking through some of his work, that I found most of it a little creepy, especially the masked figures I have placed above.  The people are dressed and posed in an everyday fashion, but their faces make them appear a little frightening.  It is an unexpected surprise to see their faces when looking at the photographs. 

Susan Meiselas

           EL SALVADOR. Cabanas. 1983. Soldiers Under Fire
Soldiers Searching Bus Passengers, Northern Highway, El Salvador 1980

Susan Meiselas was born in 1948 in Maryland.  She is a freelance photographer who is probably best known for her work in El Salvador, as she has published some books with these photos.  It was in 1981 that she visited a village in El Salvador that was destroyed by the armed forces.  She took pictures of this, called the El Mozote Massacre- "The El Mozote Massacre took place in the village of El Mozote, in Moraz├ín department, El Salvador, on December 11, 1981, when Salvadoran armed forces trained by the United States military killed at least 1000 civilians in an anti-guerrilla campaign during the Salvadoran Civil War".  Now knowing what the El Mozote Massacre was and stood for, I believe Susan's images are even stronger in my mind.  I do not think I would have the ability to stand by and photograph these men at war.  I wonder is she was in any real danger when shooting in the trench for "Soldiers Under Fire".  And the men patting down the civilians in "Soldiers Searching Bus Passengers" would scare me enough to hide my camera.  This shot that she made, while not pointing directly at the people, creates an even more eerie and secretive effect for such a situation.  They are only shadows, but they are probably doing a lot of harm. 

Ray K. Metzker

                              Ray K. Metzker N 58EL9 from the Chicago series 1958

                                                                                          Philadelphia 1964

Ray Metzker was born in 1931 and is known for his work in cityscape as well as landscape portraiture.  I decided to pick some of his cityscape portraits, as I find them more interesting.  In the first photo, from the Chicago Series, I was originally drawn in to the photo to try to figure out what the objects in the foreground center of the photo are.  The women walking in the background originally appeared to be walking on these objects from a distance.  After further study, these ambiguous objects appear to be trash cardboard pieces laying on the road.  I found it very interesting that the photographer was able to use these simple pieces of trash in such an interesting way.  Without the distorted focus, the picture would not be as successful.  In "Philadelphia 1964", I found it interesting how Mr. Metzker was able to use a flat horizontal viewpoint and use the reflective surface of the city in the background to create a deeper space and even an atmosphere and feeling in this photograph. 

Pedro Meyer

                                                                   Rio De Janeiro

                                   Pedro Meyer, Viejo con billetes, 1985 Where Is The Money

Born in Madrid, Spain on October 6, 1935, Pedro Meyer is considered a pioneer in contemporary digital photography.  Some of his work appears to have been digitally redone or photoshopped, creating interesting surreal like images.  In "Rio De Janeiro" the lines created with the kites move the eye from the top left to the bottom right.  I can not quite tell if any of those kites were repeated digitally, or if they are all actually there.  (Therefore, the photoshopping was done successfully I suppose).  In "Where Is The Money" I think it's interesting how the man is in the foreground looking so upset while the woman is working in the background.  He looks like he has been added to this picture, and I believe it serves a purpose to look this way.  For example, the workroom is giving us one setting, while the man in the foreground is giving us a completely different idea to that setting.  He serves to show different sides of the story. 

Joel Meyerowitz

Cape Cod

Fifth Avenue, New York City

Born in 1938, Joel Meyerowitz is a street photographer from New York who was also one of the beginning pioneers for color photography in the arts.  His photographs contain interesting angles, compositions and even stories.  I was mainly drawn to "Cape Cod" due to the use of color combinations.  The light blue sky, whites, and oranges create a beach like atmosphere while the wind is also blowing the fabric around into kite like figures.  Even without the title of "Cape Cod", I would still associate this picture with a beach theme.  "Fifth Avenue, New York City" is obviously one of his street photographs, and it remains as a very strong subject.  We can see the little clean girl looking out the window, wearing all white, with fancy drapes surrounding her while a man is outside in the foreground sitting on the ground with no money and obviously no home.  I feel like this sums up our society in America pretty well.  We have such a large problem between the overly rich and poor in America, that they can even live on each others doorstep and we consider it normal.  I think the story that this photograph tells makes it such a successful piece. 

Duane Michals

Damnation After Salvation

Things Are Queer

Duane Michals, born February 18, 1932, is a self taught photographer.  He enjoyed shooting people in their own environments, as to leave them as comfortable as possible.  He is also said to have addressed gay themes in his work, although he himself was not personally gay.  "Damnation After Salvation" I believe can speak to many people who feel somewhat oppressed by the church.  The man on the left side of the photograph is modeled in such a way to look upset, but feeling somewhat guilty while the preacher on the right side of him is grinding a cross into his head.  Michals probably portrayed a feeling many have but don't feel as if they can speak about it publicly in this photograph.  I also enjoy the photo-like-montage of "Things Are Queer".  The sequence of pictures keeps itself in an odd rotation, like a dream, while the objects are disproportionate.  This creates a sense of unbalance, and surrealism. 

Richard Misrach

Outdoor Dining, Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, 1992
From the series, Desert Canto XV. The Salt Flats 1992

Dead Animals #1, 1987

Richard Misrach was born in California in 1949.  He is best known for his studies of "human intervention in landscapes".  His work represents a contrast between man and nature in thought provoking ways such as in "Outdoor Dining".  This untouched land resembling nature's beauty is some what tainted with man made things laying about- the tables.  Are man made developments on the way to ruin the natural state of this place?  In "Dead Animals #1" we can see a pile of livestock laying dead next to what appears to be very polluted waters.  Perhaps this is a sign of how man can come along and ruin or kill nature.  This probably wouldn't have happened if industrial pollution had not crossed paths with these animals. 

Wright Morris

Wright Morris, Dresser Drawer, Ed's Place, 1947

Wright Morris, Light Pole and Grain Elevator, Eastern Nebraska, 1947

Wright Morris was born January 6, 1910 and passed away April 25, 1998.  The Great Plains remains a subject that Mr. Morris is best known for depicting photographically.  I included the picture of "Light Pole and Grain Elevator" to give an example of this work.  He also had a way of arranging still lifes for pictures that remain quite interesting, like in "Dresser Drawer, Ed's Place".  The inner contents of someone's drawers can tell a lot about their life, just as I believe this picture is telling us a story of someone else's life.  I am more drawn to these still life/documentary type of photos more than his Great Plains photographs. 

John Pfahl

John Pfahl was born February 17, 1939 and is still alive today.  He is best known for his landscape portraits.  I have included some of his photos from his Windows series.  I chose these photos because of the idea that we are traveling through these different places, inside looking out onto the world.  It is almost like a traveling documentary of scenes from different homes or different viewpoints in life.  Most people are only aware of their own surroundings, and what is outside of their own windows.  Perhaps this is a traveling viewpoint from others eyes.

1978-1981, by John Pfahl

1978-1981, by John Pfahl

Irving Penn

Ballet Theater
New York, 1947

Mrs. Amory Carhart
New York 1947
Irving Penn was born June 16, 1917 and passed away October 7, 2009.  A fashion and portraiture photographer, he was known as the first photographer to place his subjects against plain white or gray backgrounds successfully.  He was able to embellish the subject or clothing by using this simple method, and I believe it also brings the details forward by leaving a bare background.  This helps the focal point to be achieved without much clutter.  However, such an arrangement does not leave much room for any type of story telling.  The model is the model and the clothes are the clothes.  They must speak for themselves.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gordon Parks

American Gothic, Washington D. C.

Paris 1951, Life
Gordon Parks was born November 30, 1912 and passed away March 7, 2006.  He is best known for his fashion photography as well as his photographs representing racial segregation and the Civil Rights leaders.  He was even hired by Vogue magazine to shoot ball gowns, which certainly sounds like a fun job. I am also interested in his American Gothic, Washington D.C.  The picture almost seems to resemble feelings of oppression or slavery.  The idea of a dirty broom and mop next to the American flag probably even made some people angry, as such a contrast is normally not compared with "The American Way".  His use of contrast and even tones in his fashion photos are very interesting and dramatic.  He has achieved details in the lightest lights and darkest darks of the model's outfits.

Paul Outerbridge Jr.

Nude Standing at a Dressing Table, c. 1936

Paul Outerbridge was born August 15, 1896 and passed away October 17, 1958.  He is known for his color photography experimentation, as color photography was a new invention during his time.  He also did a large study of nudes, posing some in erotic positions that led to these photographs not being exhibited during his time.  It was not until after his death that they were to be seen by the public.  I am not necessarily impressed with the actual photos that I have chosen for him, but instead I am impressed at his advancement and challenge to create such photographs during his day in age.  I believe it becomes more artistic because of this, as it is taking a stand against the normal "rules" of society.  We would not view these photos as largely erotic today, but it was viewed as such during his lifetime.

Bill Owens

Damned Dishes
"How can I worry about the damned dishes when there are children dying in Vietnam."
(c) Bill Owens


Bill Owens was born September 25, 1938.  He is best know for his documentary type of work shooting domestic suburban scenes in housing development communities that overtook the nation after World War II.  These photos were published in a book called Suburbia, published in 1973.  These pictures capture almost a completely different world from now.  The interiors and exteriors of the houses seem very clean cut.  I enjoy the contrast between the two pictures that I have chosen for him, as one -Damned Dishes- shows how even a person living in such a clean community can still be a messy person with a busy life, and the other picture of the community party appears to be a little too clean for my taste.  We are getting an inside view on how these people from the past, living in a rigid clean world, can still relate to us today when we peek into their personal lives.

Nicholas Nixon

Friendly, West Virginia
photograph | gelatin silver print

The Brown Sisters
Gelatin silver print, 17 7/8 x 22 3/8" (45.4 x 56.9 cm)

Nicholas Nixon is known for his portraiture and documentary work in the use of a large format camera with 8 by 10 inch film.  Whenever the new age came that everyone was using smaller and more portable 35mm cameras, he rejected them by saying, "when photography went to the small camera and quick takes, it showed thinner and thinner slices of time, [unlike] early photography where time seemed non-changing. I like greater chunks, myself. Between 30 seconds and a thousandth of a second the difference is very large."  His photos are interesting compositionally, but I can't understand how he was able to achieve such clarity with the speeds his camera was getting.  Shooting still images is one thing, but shooting still people is a whole separate ball game. 

Arnold Newman

American author Truman Capote June 28, 1977 in New York City. Capote is best known for such novels as "In Cold Blood" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Arnold Newman was born March 3, 1918 and passed June 6, 2006 at the age of 88.  He is the so called founder of Environmental Portraiture, which places subjects in surroundings that represent their lives or work.  I found that after looking through most of his work that this type of portrait represents a type of documentary for me, as it seems to tell a story.  He was able to place most of his subjects in such a way that not only created interesting viewpoints, but interesting contrasts between the individual and their surroundings.  Some how they all look as if they belong in these environments, and as if they are comfortable enough to be in their own homes.  I believe that for Arnold Newman to be able to acheive this type of relationship with the photo to the figure and their surroundings is key to his portraits becoming actual pieces of art.