In approaching this assignment, I was drawn to the idea of creating space for reflection. In my own personal reflection on this course and the content I’ve produced, I’ve noticed recurring themes associated with the global pandemic. This pandemic, so deeply ingrained in our collective experiences, has produced such great loss that has been emphasized in so many different forms of expression, almost to an excessive extent. However, the pandemic’s pervasive nature keeps it a relevant and intrusive muse at every attempt of art I make, and often I don’t have the luxury of turning a blind eye.
In creating the physical space of the shoot, I included a speaker for music, Oreo cookies for incentive and a token of thanks, and index cards. On these index cards, I asked everyone to write a love letter to someone. I placed no bounds on who the recipient of the letter could be, I just wanted them to sit, reflect on their love for someone, and immortalize it on a colorful index card. Some wrote to their mothers, some wrote to their younger selves, some to their siblings, and some to seemingly random people who got them where they are today. A sentiment that has been circulating the internet right now is the idea that we are all just a collection of habits and quirks of all those we’ve surrounded ourselves with over the years. I wanted to capture the fleeting moments of recognition and appreciation for those people in our lives.
These images represent a piece of ourselves given to this school, this space, and this past year of triumphs and tribulations. To see yourself, and to love yourself is to see and love all of the people who have touched your life, and all of the lives you have touched. I am eternally grateful for the community created out of these trying times, and I hope to never forget the impact every single one of my friends, those pictured and those not, have had on my small life. You know who you are, this is my love letter to you. Thank you and I love you.
Lee Norman Friedlander was born on July 14th, 1934 in Aberdeen, WA. He gained his education at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and then moved to New York where he focused on taking pictures of the American social landscape. Friedlander is primarily a street photographer, and his images are recognized for being candid portraits of urban settings. Many of his photographs capture overlapping light and reflections in windows. Friedlander claims that his photographs aren’t premediated. Rather, he works to spontaneously capture whatever is ahead of him. His images draw out a tension between people and things in a street by making them all feel equal in the image. Friedlander’s images have been curated and published multiple times. Notably, he was included in the Museum of Modern Art’s New Documents exhibition which was curated by John Szarkowski in 1967. His most famous published work includes The American Monument (1976), America by Car (2010) and Self Portrait (2000), which was a series of self-portraits he started in the 1960’s. The image we are looking at was also published in 1978 in Lee Friedlander, Photographs.
The image, titled New York City was created in 1965. It is a black and white gelatin silver print. It measures 17cm by 25cm. While it isn’t a super small print, the dark shadow on the right, and the dark wall at the top half of the print, in some ways makes the image feel smaller. There is a lot going on in these darker areas, but we are still drawn toward the ground, which takes less that 50% of the entire composition. The size effectively accomplishes the goal of placing things within the right proportions.
Gelatin silver prints were extremely popular during this time, especially for artistic projects such as this because of the high level of detail that it revealed. It consists of a layer of paper, a layer of baryta, and a layer of gelatin. The gelatin layer contains the light-sensitive silver compounds. After it is exposed to the negative and developed in a chemical bath, the image is relatively permanent and has a smooth surface. Silver gelatin prints were created and popularized as an alternative to platinum prints. The silver prints were first introduced in the late 1800s and experimented with by Alfred Stieglitz. However, it wasn’t until World War I and later, when platinum papers became harder to obtain, that silver prints became more popular.
The detail in this image is extremely interesting to the viewer- from the stains on the ground and the speckled walls to the clean lines of the stars on the flag in the store window, there is a lot to see, but it isn’t overwhelming either. The use of black and white is also very impactful here. The shadow on the right becomes even more mysterious because it conceals something within it while still staying in frame. Also, the iconography of the flag is emphasized. Even without color, the flag is easily recognizable, and muting the bright red, blue of the flag into grayscale equalizes the power balance of all the subjects in the frame.
Of the five categories that John Szarkowski discusses in his book The Photographers Eye, the frame(s) in this image are most significant in the image’s composition as it tells us what Friedlander wanted us to see in this scene. Frame asks the photographer what they should include and what they should reject. Szarkowski also says that the frame “isolates unexpected juxtapositions… The edge of the photograph dissects familiar forms and shows their unfamiliar fragment” (70). The most striking part of the frame is that the right side of the frame is almost entirely covered by a shadow. Out of the shadow, a single foot sticks out. While the foot is extremely well lit, the rest of the body is hidden in the shadow (an unfamiliar fragment) which draws intrigue to the foot. Within the image, the shadow on the right, the wall in the top half, and the left and bottom edges of the photo frame the well-lit sidewalk. The sidewalk becomes the focus of the image despite being the least “eventful” place in the image. The foot is the only object visible on the sidewalk in this framed area, which further highlights its presence. The framing allows us to deduce that the image is about the foot walking on the sidewalk- not about the store in the back or the owner of the feet. When paired with the title of the image “New York City” and Friedlander’s background, it becomes even more apparent that we are looking at the candid movements of people through the street. Another key framing in this image is the American flag in the store window. Despite not being able to see all sides of the window, there is a framing with the border of the image. As New York City is one of the representative cities on America, this position of the flag alongside the street is very poignant. The flag is above the street, but also not framed within the center of the image. This positioning makes us know we’re in American streets, but also that this is about the people more than it is about the place. In addition, in most representations of the American flag or interactions with it, the flag is hoisted high above everyone else, and people stand still, facing the flag, in some form of patriotic performance. In this image, there is movement parallel to the flag, not toward it. The framing of the image feels purposeful in highlighting this.
On initial glance, I was drawn to this image because the way the objects in the image were placed was not something I had really seen before. The American flag stood out easily but soon after my eyes dropped to the large sidewalk. It wasn’t until after I’d noticed these things that I saw the foot on the right. It could have to do with the way people read in English- from left to right. To me, the image feels like it’s divided into three sections which is a result of the framing. First we have the sidewalk, then the storefront, and lastly the foot and shadow on the right. Friedlander loved to juxtapose people and things in this manner to comment on urban scenes, and I feel the equal importance of all different parts of the image. While I am naturally intrigued by who the foot belongs too, I also feel like it doesn’t actually matter- it’s just representative of any dweller in the city. In addition, the (mostly) empty sidewalk shows its wear and tear, and how constantly it is used by people in the city. This is a striking contrast to the flag in the storefront that is shielded from the outside air and doesn’t appear to be used- it’s just meant to be looked at.
In many ways, this image feels timeless to me. The icons in place are easily recognizable. Most images of the city are busy and overwhelming, but this image doesn’t feel like that to me. There is mystery and it calls for intrigue, and the viewer wants to see more.
William Wegman, an American painter, photographer and videographer, who is primarily known for his photography and videography work featuring his dogs. Wegman was born in Holyoke, MA in 1943 and grew up with an interest in art. He pursued further involvement in the art world and attended Massachusetts College of Art in painting and received a MFA in painting from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Wegman started off his art career as a painter and officially transitioned into photography in the 1970s. Wegman’s first muse that got him into photography was his Weimaraner called Man Ray. Man Ray “volunteered” himself into Wegman’s frame, as Wegman remembered : “he always seemed to want to be in the space that I was activating with these objects I was photographing. So I did take his picture and figured out ways to include him now and then, and he was always very happy when that happened.” Since then, it has impacted Wegman’s life and career entirely and left us with these compelling works that portray an intimate relationship between him and his dogs with a pinch of funness. Man Ray was the central figure in most of Wegman’s creations during the 70s and early 80s for multiple videotapes and photographs. After Man Ray died in the year of 1982, Wegman continued to work with some new Weimaraners and their descendants several years after. Wegman was renowned for the creations he had done in collaboration with his Weimaraners. Besides his incredible work, he devotes himself to “being fun” and the pleasure is not only reflected in his work, but made him being featured on Sesame Street and Saturday Night Live.
Handsome, a print by William Wegman at Haverford, photographs Wegman’s Weimaraner leisurely lying on the hand of someone unknown to the viewers. Compared to the size of the hand, it is not hard to conclude that the Weimaraner featured in this photograph is still a puppy. The relaxing posture and the half-sleepy eyes communicate a sense of trust from the puppy. As Wegman described his relationship with his dogs, “my dogs are happy because I engage them very fully. I don’t leave home without them.” The intimacy and mutual trust is announced in Handsome, and reinforced by the warm tone. The general theme color is toned to be more bright and yellow, producing a mellow environment that resembles the comfortableness one would often experience when being at home. The family-like color choice extends the affection between Wegman and his puppy into almost the love of family members. Additionally, Handsome was photographed in a setting that matches the color of the subject, — a light brown, camel color, with a pinch of yellow. The consistency in the color with the almost square framing of Handsome give the viewer a simple, but stable and soothing impression when appreciating this photograph.
Photography and Text by Rachel Grand, Copyright 2021
Jewish in the Bi-Co
Jewishness is not an easily defined term. It surely has something to do with Judaism as a religion, but it also suggests a cultural identity and even an ethnicity. The experience of centuries of persecution, isolation and resilience by the Jewish people has contributed to a distinctive Jewish identity that remains intact today. There is great diversity in how Jewishness is defined and expressed, both everywhere and here in the Bi-Co. Using portrait photography, I wanted to use this microcosm to explore what it means to identify and express one’s Jewishness.
The Bi-College community of Bryn Mawr and Haverford is a complicated place to be Jewish. There is a long, troubled history at both schools of blatant and covert forms of antisemitism. From the quotas for Jewish students and the existence of Nazi sympathizer groups, to contemporary political discourse, the Bi-Co is not always a safe and welcoming place to be Jewish. Yet, students continue to form community with one another and maintain a proud Jewish identity.
This exhibition displays photographs that I created for a photography class. I reached out to Jewish individuals and groups on campus, asking for volunteers to sit for a portrait. The volunteers were encouraged to wear what made them feel both the most “Jewish” and like themselves. These subjects may or may not come from Jewish households or backgrounds. Some keep kosher, some are in the process of converting, and some are still figuring out what it means to be Jewish.
As you look at these portraits, ask yourself:
What does it mean to look Jewish? Do these photographs deconstruct or construct this appearance?
Through this series, I try to capture the different ways in which sunlight bounces off surfaces to create playful reflections. Paired with shadows, the light creates almost illusionary effects on surfaces such as windows and floors. The play between shadows and light, black and white, is delicate and easily missed in everyday life. By framing minimal scenes, my goal was to draw focus to these reflections of light. I also wanted to draw on the common trope of finding light in darkness, but rather than setting the two as opposites, I wanted to see them in harmony. I want to leave the viewer feeling light and more intrigued about the shadows in their own lives.
About The Author: Lipi Paladugu is a recent graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2021. Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science.