In calmer times pedestrians crossing the bridge from Nuevo Larado, Mexico into Larado Texas. Hotel Hamilton in the distance. “Streets of Larado” (July 1959). “As I walked out on the streets of Larado…” – Johnny Cash.
In composition theory the use of diagonal lines is imperative. A diagonal line in a photograph creates interest. It creates a certain tension. It draws the viewer’s interest into the image as we try to see what is just beyond our sight. In “Railroad Crossing” c.1949 a normal scene becomes transformed into a far more interesting depiction of a track crew at work with the use of diagonal lines whether intentional or not on the part of the photographer. Sometimes diagonal lines are obvious, but more often than you might suppose it is the unconscious, invisible diagonal that connects objects in a photo that is more important. Such might be the gaze created by a parent looking at his/her child and the child’s gaze back to the parent. Our brains try to make sense of it all and in so doing a more memorable image is created. In “Railroad Crossing” the eye is drawn to a vanishing point as the telephone poles diminish in relative perspective as does the road turning to the right far in the distance. How many diagonal lines can you find in “Railroad Crossing”? I suspect many more than you might imagine at first glance.
It has been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I agree. There is perhaps an unconscious quest at DPI to locate images that are similar to those taken by the great masters. I admit that I am not particularly moved by paintings except in very special cases. One painting that has touched my soul is “Lady of Shalott” by Waterhouse (1888). I could look at it all day and feel a certain calmness and admiration for the artist. “Lady of Shalott” was based on a poem by Tennyson (1832) and it is shown below.
Painting and photography share a commonality. Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” was the inspiration for this image, minus the pitchfork of course. Probably taken in the southwest U. S. c.1925 we present “American Gothic II“. Appears to be of an American Indian couple.
If you say that this photo is far from technically perfect I would have to agree. It feels good to break the rules once in a while. Remember that this is photojournalism not studio photography. A good deal of photojournalism has its roots in conflict photography. War photography. Photos are taken under extreme conditions. In photojournalism the message is what is important not necessarily the technical expertise of the photographer.
Which brings us to this photo we call “Turn of the Century“. After much research we assess that this photo was taken in lower Manhattan c. 1914. Lower west side to be more precise. Somewhere between Houston and West 23 Street and possibly Christopher Street. The hat shops in that area are prolific. Also notice the battle scars on the boy from a recent fight as well as the Adrien Brody lookalike that he is standing with. We do not need perfection in this photo to understand the circumstances and the setting. Sometimes less is actually better as the mind fills in the scene what the eyes cannot see.
May the Force be with you. I wanna be a Spaceman. Will our Starship Troopers be similarly outfitted? Hey, it’s a bug planet! A little humor in times like these may help. Probably inspired by Flash Gordon, but that may be going back too far for some of you. Sometimes I wish that they could just beam me up, Scotty.
W. Eugene Smith was a master of the photojournalism essay. I became aware of his work in doing research on the Battle of Saipan in which my father fought. Smith was there and documented the aftermath of the Japanese banzai attack on July 7, 1944. There were other photos that he took on Saipan of the interaction between U. S. soldiers and the local children. After the war, Smith documented the effects of mercury pollution in Japan in his essay Minamata.
Our younger readers of this blog may have never heard of the film The Sand Pebbles (1966) starring Steve McQueen. As a fan of McQueen I watched this film many times decades ago. McQueen plays a U. S. Navy seaman aboard the U.S.S. San Pablo, a gunboat on a rescue mission on the Yangtze River in war torn China in 1926. One of the most dramatic scenes in the film is when the San Pablo tries to run the Chinese blockade on the river. This lead photo, “H.M.S. Medway in Tsingtao c.1931“. is the spittingi image of that scene in the film.
Grandparents’ Day is celebrated on September 9 this year. After all, where would we be without them? A close examination of this photo, “Grandparents“; U. S. c.1950, tells us more about this couple. Note the work shoes on the man and the somewhat swollen feet of the woman. Possible indications of a failing heart for the woman and a life of hard work for the man.
Hitchhiker? Maybe. “Bound For Jackson (Mississippi)“; Mississippi (April 1955). Reminds us of the song “Jackson” sung by Johnny Cash and June Carter (1967). “We got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout – We’ve been talkin’ ’bout Jackson ever since the fire went out….”