Sarah Meister | Seeing Through Photographs
Sarah Meister | Seeing Through Photographs


People are so accustomed
to making a direct parallel between a photograph’s subject
and its meaning. The thing that it depicts
is rarely the same scale, the same dimensionality, the same color
as the photograph itself, and it’s in those differences that a real tension
and interest lies. Since photography was invented, one of the functions
that it’s served in the world is to record things that would
have previously been recorded through drawing,
or etching, or sketching. That notion of a photograph’s
documentary function has been a part of it
since the beginning. When John Szarkowski
organized New Documents in 1967, what he was doing
was drawing together three of the best
and most promising suggestions in contemporary photography. They weren’t trying
to change the world. They weren’t trying
to work for a client. They weren’t trying
to make a picture that served any other purpose
than making that picture. For a photograph
to function as a document in the traditional sense of the word, it had to be clear,
it had to be sharp, in focus. But what is interesting about Arbus
and Winogrand and Friedlander is that they would adopt
that language of handheld, black-and-white photography, but what they were applying it to
was a totally personal end. This picture by Garry Winogrand
came into the collection in 1973. It’s a classic
mid-to-late 20th century print. It’s made
from a 35 millimeter negative that he’s enlarged to this scale,
printed on gelatin silver paper, and then trimmed and mounted it. When you think
of Gary Winogrand’s photograph of the blonde woman
and the African-American man carrying two monkeys, of course,
that is a photograph of a couple and their two
very well-dressed monkeys walking through Central Park. But when you realize
what Winogrand has done, and his recognition of how
that picture can function both as a metaphor
and as a subject, the choices that he’s made
in terms of how close he stands to that subject or how far away, how the very nature
of walking around the streets with a 35-millimeter camera opens the possibility of encountering
something like that on the street, and just capturing it
as it’s passing you by. All photographers make choices, whether it’s how you frame
something on Instagram, what kind of camera you use,
what kind of prints you make, how you share that picture. All of those choices
make every photograph different from what it’s a photograph of, and help you tease apart
the difference and the space between something
in front of the camera and the ultimate production
of the artist.

1 thought on “Sarah Meister | Seeing Through Photographs”

  1. Jean Herold Abulin says:

    I love photos they are marvelous. Thank you for sharing and the person you are.

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