photography in reverse: day twelve


Today was, thankfully, mostly just a work day (for all of us) but of course we started out with our Weekly 100 pictures. Actually, the first thing up was a short film on Henri Cartier-Bresson. Cartier-Bresson is, of course, one of those photographers we learn about early on in our student years, and is a giant enough to be overlooked in one’s later years. (After a long enough time and years of overexposure, so to speak, there are just some artists you can’t look at anymore…) However this short film, in which Cartier-Bresson speaks in his own words about his images and his working philosophy, was inspiring in every way. The old famous images seemed more spontaneous, fresh, and exciting than I remember; his ideas were more humanist and optimistic than I ever knew. I just wanted to grab a 35mm camera and go out and see the world anew.

My general thesis for this week – being as we are in the mid-Twentieth-Century, shooting black-and-white film, looking at the changing world – was composition: arranging the world within the camera. We are still in Sontag territory here, of course, but I was less concerned with theory this week than the marriage of syntax and content. We talked about the size and speed of a 35mm camera versus the steady, imprisoning frame of a 120mm square. We discussed a seemingly objective view masking the personal viewpoint of the photographer. I contrasted Cartier-Bresson’s tightly composed humanism to the beautiful but bleak looseness of Robert Frank’s The Americans. We looked at Helen Levitt, Gilles Peress, and one of my all-time favorites, Roy DeCarava.

Looking at the use of photography with performance art, we talked about the authenticity of a grainy B&W image and how it compares to the 4×6 color snapshots. That got us into Nan Goldin, and Larry Clark’s recent offering of his small snapshots for $100 each. I showed them these amazing recreations of famous images. We talked a little bit about creating fantastic worlds, with Robert and Shana Parke-Harrison, and Ruth Thorne-Thomsen. Somehow, we found our way to talking about Stanhopes, I think in reference to some ideas we had about making eggs for Easter… No matter what, I think everyone (myself included) walked away from this morning’s discussion feeling pretty inspired. I’m looking forward to the weekend, and some time to relax and enjoy this gorgeous mountain Spring.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *