Friday, August 12, 2011

Window Into Ourselves

I love portrait and street photography; those images of everyday people that give us a glimpse into a world that may be wildly unlike our own, and which have the capacity to inspire, depress, or otherwise move us as much as those using carefully crafted sets, makeup, or set lighting. The way the camera, person, and environment can combine to turn the mundane into a powerful image that conveys facets of a personality or human condition, imagined or real, fascinates me. Relating to the humanity in people, who may be wildly different from me or exist with wholly alternative realities, is a beautiful reminder of what exactly it is to be human. Working at the Getty was when I first learned to appreciate photography as a medium; I would spend hours poking through art books and the photography ones tended to be those that blew my mind and contain images that continue to stay with me. Here are a few of my favorite portrait photographs, which incidentally happened to all be in black and white:

Blue Cloud Wright, a slaughterhouse worker photographed by Richard Avedon for In the American West.

From Milton Rogovin's The Mining Photographs, which shows miners from around the world at work and at home. The contrasts and surprises make this an amazing study.

Qahatika Child by Edward Curtis, whose photos of Native Americans helped to preserve images of a shrinking race but also bring up issues of doctoring photos to create a desired look that may not mirror reality.

Weegee's photos are as whimsical as his pseudonym.

Underwater Swimmer by Andre Kertesz.

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