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.