Friday, June 18, 2010

excavating meanings from a single photograph (1937 England) [discussion about the following article]
For 70 years, this picture has been used to tell the same story – of inequality, class division, "toffs and toughs". As an old Etonian closes in on Downing Street, it is being trotted out again. But what was the story behind it? Ian Jack investigates
[From INTELLIGENT LIFE Magazine, Spring 2010;]
Almost since its invention, photography has had the habit of turning people into symbols by accident. A painter might spend a year on a canvas, working up the personification of an abstract idea to its full visual glory ("Truth Triumphant" or "Temptation Denied"), but a camera could capture a scene in a fraction of a second, and if the scene was somehow striking and memorable – in its composition, its subject matter, its light – it might become "iconic", meaning that its particulars might be understood to suggest much more general emotions, conflicts and problems. When the shutter clicked, such a metaphorical future was rarely suspected either by the photographer or his subjects, who might not even be aware that a picture had been taken. The moment could be ordinary or extraordinary: a couple kissing in a Paris street, a sharecropper and her children in California, a burning child running down a road in Vietnam. It could happen anywhere, to anybody. It might happen even at an old-fashioned English cricket match.

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