Saturday, May 16, 2009

Every Picture Tells A Story

I have been thinking a lot about photography lately, and about how the photographer creates the world he or she captures through the lens, becoming the most important presence in it. Which led me back to Susan Sontag and her notion, expressed in her seminal essay On Photography. that the profusion of photographs in our lives has actually changed the way we see the world. (Sontag, of course, would probably have preferred that her thinking be called ovicular.)

We look at that world through its photographers' eyes, whether that photographer is Aunt Sadie, just back from China, or my longtime friend Brian Moss's pictures of strange and curious people (some NSFW) or the great Richard Avedon, who once said, "My portraits are more about me than they are about the people I photograph. " As a subject I've always tried to look back into the lens, and through it to the person on the other side, but ultimately the moment is not mine.

Avedon is the subject of a new retrospective at ICP, and it's instructive to read the Times art critic's review as well as the fashion critic's appraisal; the former is outside the pictures, looking at them; the latter is inside them, looking out. And I'm not usually a fan of narrated slideshows, but this one, by the ICP's curators, is quite good. I'm looking forward to seeing the show.

With enough budget, photographers can do astonishing things, as in this iconic Avedon image of "Dovima With Elephants":

I am particularly fond of his photos of the wonderful Dorian Leigh, like this one, all angles:

But I also like this off-handed, far more intimate one of Leigh from Harper's Bazaar (found at Fashionologie). Every picture does tell a story, don't it?

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