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June 27, 2017

Been reading a couple of books that have me excited about photography again. Magnum tells the story of the famous worker owned collective that blurred the line between art and photojournalism. The Photo Book offers a survey of key photographers, arranged alphabetically, which makes for disjointed history but generates surprising juxtapositions. The sometimes overwrought captioning has me doing voiceovers for my own photos, as here:
Three Figures, Seattle, 2017. The title invites you to count the triangulated figures; the first obvious, the second a mere (seated) silhouette, the third almost invisible, as if camouflaged, a slender dark clad saunterer whose sunlit white hair echoes the numerous light globes in the distance, a comment, perhaps, on the mechanization of humanity. At first the picture seems askew, but that is just the "lay of the land." This vertiginous uncertainty calls to question the reliability of the viewer's frame of reference, but when checked aginst the verticals of lamp posts and building, come to symbolize the struggle of civilization to dominate nature--an unwinnable battle as the people are swallowed by the landscape. The figures become more obscure as they recede, with only the foremost shown to have a face, and that partly shadowed, hinting at the anonymity of urban existence, which the man drawn into himself in the shade appears to relish. But delve deeper and one sees there are not just three or even four figures, but five; as happens in patriarchal societies, these overlooked women exist at the margins. This titular misdirection challenges viewers to seize initiative, question the dominant narrative and the illusory veracity of photography itself. When properly analyzed, this composition is revealed to be more than just a sunny day in the park.