McCurry, Kubota, and Scianna
What happens when three famous
photographers stand in front of the
same scene? Is it possible to determine
| THE GOLDEN TICKET |
There are days when we walk outside and know, I mean know in our bones, that a picture is standing in front of us. Whether these image rich environments are at home or a thousand miles away, we each have a place which resinates with us. The challenge is taking that ball of energy and letting it come through the picture. A good photographer can pass their excitement of a scene right through the lens and into the viewer.
| THE DAVID |
Great artists, throughout history, have tackled the same subjects. Its a rite of passage, when a younger artist challenges their mentors. We must all go attempt to outdo our masters at some point. But what I have found particularly interesting is when two artists, who are working in the same era, approach nearly identical scenes. The finished photographs always read differently. Usually one is stronger than the other, but I will let you decide which images work better.
| WHO IS SCORING THE ROUNDS |
A good habit to practice when looking at a photograph is to AVOID at all costs saying “I like it” or “I dont like it.” In art school we were forbidden in critiques from using those phrases. Why? It is not because our teachers were totalitarian dictators hell bent on instilling words of propganda from our still-forming art mouths. They wanted to show us what happens when we were forced to search for a vocabulary to properly describe the visual language. We needed to understand that the Visual Language is a real language, like Sanskrit, Greek or French. It is not simply a collection of symbols which excite a preference for “Liking.”
| WHAT CAN WE SAY |
As you look at these parallel images ask yourself a few questions. In fact, you can ask yourself more than I am suggesting here, but these will be enough to start the conversation.
| QUESTIONS |
- What is the picture doing?
- What verbs are captured in the image? (Avoid talking about a photograph as if you were describing it to a blind person. No one needs to hear “There is a figure on the left, holding a blue bag, with one foot forward and the other was on a box.” Only a blind man needs these details. Talk about what the Picture is doing.)
- Is the picture clear and easy to understand?
- Are the any extra details which do not add to the picture?
- Who is the subject? And why are they the subject and not something else in the scene?
- Are there any details missing which make the picture confusing?
As an example, I might describe McCurry’s Snake photograph as doing this:
The image establishes the role of a mother protecting her child. This is emphasized by the mother cradling the child, above the floor, as a snake passes below their bodies. The picture is telling us, in visual terms, how the role of a MOTHER, exists in the visual realm. By setting the figures on opposing diagonals, there is a contrasting sense of movement as the gazing direction of the subjects looks in opposite directions. All of these design elements reinforce the concept (or content) of the image which is commentary on a mother/child relationship. It is a success harmony of design and content with no superfluous details. McCurry gives a sense of Place in the photograph through the small amount of information we get from the visual cues of the wooded floor, subjects ethnicity/dress, the hammock, and the snake.
I will leave the rest of the images to you all to compare and interpret. Let me know who you think did a better job with the scenes.