Grain destined for export stacked on Madras beaches (February 1877) I've started writing a series of posts on photography on World...
Monday, 1 November 2010
Sharmila Tagore and The Look of Love
picture: Sally Mann
The last post looked at The World of Apu and how Satyajit Ray directed the 14 year old female lead, Sharmila Tagore - very simply. Look up, look down, look left, look right resulted in a sumptuous and beautiful scene filled with yearning and love.
I think with any kind of photography, there is a visual Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle at play. We can pretend to be objective or we can pretend to be subjective, but the person determining the picture is outside our control.
Some people have the intelligence to use this. So Sally Mann exploited the boredom of endless reshoots to capture her children complete with elegance, grace and a certain attitude. Her children look moody, grumpy and bored because they are moody, grumpy and bored - with their mother mostly. And that is what makes Mann's work so special. Rineke Dijkstra used minimal direction to allow her subjects to fill the space with bewilderment or their own expectations of what they think they are supposed to be.
In-your-face photographers also get the look they want. Look at the pictures of William Klein, Mark Cohen and especially Bruce Gilden and you see people who are monumentally stressed. They might be stressed because they are living in big cities (or in Cohen's case, a small industrial town), but it's more likely it's because they've got Bruce Gilden in their face with a Leica. So what we see is people who are pissed off (or smiling manically) because Bruce Gilden is in their face. Which is not necessarily the way we read the pictures, but possibly makes them finer than they are before we discovered this universal photographic truth - your camera affects everything it sees.
Hurry up, mum! It's only the bleedin' focus!