Photography and Text by Abby Harris, Copyright 2021
As the world slowly opens and things improve each day I wanted to highlight vaccination and the pandemic on campus. As we pass the one year mark of the pandemic impacting everyone’s lives, getting vaccinated is a simple way to protect yourself and help life return to normal. The joy and relief that come with being vaccinated is an effervescent feeling. I almost cried out of happiness and exhaustion when I received my first dose. Not only did I want to spread a message about getting vaccinated I also wanted to show off the happiness people experience once they are vaccinated.
Simple portraits outside with just my friends and their vaccination cards felt like the best way to display these feelings. The pandemic has been difficult to navigate while being away at college for all of us, but we have persevered and are hopefully close to the end. Being at college during the pandemic has been very isolating and lonely. We spend all day in our dorms on zoom and see each other only occasionally. This is why I chose to shoot each of my friends individually.
When I took these photographs I didn’t direct my friends at all besides asking them to hold the card. I think it is very powerful that in each person’s eyes you can see them smiling while holding their card proudly. Even though this past year has been horrible we are on track to being okay again. My friends and I are very lucky to be vaccinated. I hope everyone who is eligible right now goes out and gets vaccinated. The weight that gets lifted off your shoulders once you are vaccinated is enormous. Vaccines should be the least scary part of the entire pandemic, they save lives and help protect yourself and others. The sooner everyone gets vaccinated the sooner life can resume.
About The Author: Abby Harris is a sophomore enrolled at Bryn Mawr College, Class of 2023. To access additional articles by Abby Harris, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/happier_than_ever/
Photography and Text by Rachel Grand, Copyright 2021
Pandemic Passover in Pennsylvania
Passover is one of the most important and widely celebrated Jewish holidays. It is a holiday that commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt: out of slavery, into freedom. It is an 8-day holiday centered around gratitude for that freedom.
As part of the exodus story, when the Israelites were fleeing from Egypt, they did not have enough time for their bread to rise. They had to take it with them from the oven while it was still unleavened. To remember this, as part of the observance of Passover, one does not eat any leavened bread. Rather, one is commanded to eat what the Israelites would have eaten, matzah, the unleavened bread, at least once a day for the duration of the holiday. Additionally, Ashkenazi Jews, those descended from Eastern European Jewry, traditionally do not eat rice, beans, corn or any other legumes. With so many restricted foods, it becomes necessary to be extremely intentional about what one eats.
Thus, Passover becomes a holiday centered around food. A holiday celebrated at home, rather than in a synagogue, there is autonomy, variety and creativity in how this holiday is observed. This indeterminacy is especially pronounced on a college campus, where each student comes from a different background and family tradition. The community that is created is thus intentional, formed from compromise.
Especially in a year of a pandemic, this holiday brings out the durability of the community. Because of the dietary laws, the Jewish organizations on campus provide meals for students that are kosher for Passover. This act of eating meals together, while maintaining social distance, creates a temporary, yet powerful space. In a time of pandemic induced social isolation, there is a newfound appreciation for these communal meals. But Passover comes and goes; the restrictions and alterations to the routine only last 8 days. The special dishes and foods for this holiday must be put away and all is restored back to normal. In a year, it will begin again.
About The Author: Rachel Grand is a senior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College majoring in Fine Arts and History. Class of 2021. To access additional articles by Rachel Grand, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/eating-the-forbidden-fruit/
Report by Laila Ali, Copyright 2012
An Exploration: The White House Gate
In this photograph report, I plan to examine a piece called the White House Gate created by Rosalind Solomon. I will start with the biography of the photographer, Rosalind Solomon. After, I will explain how print quality, print materials, and print size impacts the image of The White House Gates image. Then I will claim that The White House Gate image is best categorized as its dominant formal characteristics as defined in John Szarkowski’s book: The Photographer’s Eye the detail. Lastly, I will conclude with how the other components Szarkowski mentioned will shape the photograph.
Rosalind Solomon: Biographical and Historical Context
Rosalind Fox Solomon was born on April 2 in 1930, at Highland Park, Illinois. She is an American artist, established in New York City, known for her portraits and connections to human suffering, ritual, and survival. Solomon attended Highland Park High School and graduated in 1947. She then attended Goucher College in Baltimore, Maryland, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1951. Then, Solomon got married and moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee. She then later divorced 63 years later after having two children. In 1968, Solomon began her photography work. She occasionally studied with Lisette Model, whose an Austrian-born American photographer primarily known for her frank humanism on her street photography from 1971 to 1977.
Before Solomon started to get into photography, she became the Southern Regional Director of the Experiment in International Living. She visited communities throughout the Southern United States, where she recruited families to host international guests to build on cross-culture in a personal way. Through her volunteer work with the Experiment in International Living, Solomon got the opportunity to travel to Japan, where Solomon stayed with a family near Tokyo. Later, when Solomon was 38 years old, she began to use an Instamatic camera to convey her feelings and ideas, which was a turning point in her career and life experience in photography.
In 1977 and 1978, Solomon moved to Washington where she photographed artists and politicians for her project series “Outside the White House”. Within this series, she photographed “The White House Gate”, the one I will later be exploring. This project lasted for about two years. Later on, in 1978, John Szarkowski included her work in the exhibition Mirrors and Windows at the Museum of Modern Art and presented examples from her Dolls and Mannequins series in the show. The use of dolls, children, and mannequins was some of the items she used as her subject. Also, Szarkowski selected 50 of her pictures to be part of the MoMA’s permanent collection. Her pictures appeared over the years in many different group exhibitions at the MoMA such as American Children, American Politicians, Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography, and The Original Copy: Sculpture in Photography 1839. Recently, the MoMA included her work in the anthology Photography at MoMA: 1960—Now, and curator, Peter Eleey, even dedicated a room to present her art pieces at MoMA PS1 in the Greater New York 2015 exhibition. Ultimately, this led to the rise of her as a photographer and the beginning of her work internationally like Peru, India, Germany, Zimbabwe, South Africa, etc.
Overall, Solomon’s work circulates between the personal and the universe as a whole. Her expertise is in her interpretation skill and the ability to take a snapshot of both social elements of the places she travels. In 2019, her artwork was recognized by receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Center for Photography. Over the past 45 years, Solomon has created inspirational work, presented in almost 30 solo exhibitions, about 100 group exhibitions, and in the collection of over 50 museums worldwide.
Medium and Presentation
As mentioned, Solomon worked on the “Outside the White House” series. In this series, Solomon created a piece called “The White House Gate” in 1977. The photograph is present in the Jane Lutnick Fine Arts Center at Haverford College. This image is a gelatin silver bromide print. A gelatin silver print can be sharply defined and detailed based on the light sensitivity to the silver halides. Also, this type of print can last several hundred years. The picture has a strong negative, specifically on the gate, which is probably due to the silver chloride to darken the gates and make the gate pop in the image.
The dimension of the picture is 15” x 15” (38 cm by 38 cm). The photograph is generally a regular size. But, it’s over matted with a beveled-shaped edge around the image. So it allows the viewer to focus more on the White House gate. Overall, the purchase of the photograph was through a Patrons of Art gift in May 1986.
“The Detail” in The White House Gate
In the book, the Photographer’s Eye, John Szarkowski describes an overview of the fundamental difficulties and opportunities of the photographs. In the introduction of the book, he offers a brief historical overview of photography, specifically how photography has evolved over the years and how he views it as a unique characteristic. Szarkowski begins the book by stating that “the invention of photography provided a radically new picture-making process- a process based not on synthesis but selection. The difference was a basic one. Paintings were made-constructed from a storehouse of traditional schemes and skills and attitudes-but photographs, as the man on the street put it, were taken” (1). This led to the posed question – how can the process of photography be used in creating meaningful/significant pictures and valid art? In the book, Szarkowski argues that photography has a unique place within the broader world of artistic practice. Throughout the book, Szarkowski discusses and provides exemplar photographs of characteristics of the medium that is represented as a form of art but does not define discrete categories of artwork. He states five main characteristics: the thing itself, the detail, the frame, time, and vantage point that are important for the creation of eloquent photography.
According to The Photographer’s Eye, Szarowski would say that the photograph of the White House Gate would be a picture representing “the detail”. The idea of “the detail” photography connects to depicting reality and depicting reality as it happens, in front of the photographer. The photography can not really “pose the truth”, but can capture snippets of the truth as it unfolds. So, the photographer needs to be content with representing the details of a narrative or an event, rather than trying to represent the whole thing.
In The White House Gate image, Solomon shows us different parts of the image. In the photograph, Solomon focuses on multiple details. One detail is the picture being taken in 1977 in front of the White House Gate at Washington, District of Columbia, US. The photograph displays the northwest gate of the White House during a snowstorm. The photograph shows that it was currently snowing as it was taken. In the picture, we see snowflakes falling as well as sticking to the gate and the ground. This detail informs the viewer of the time/season it occurred, which captured a fragment in depicting reality.
Another fragment is the tire marks on the ground. The tire marks are emphasizing that a car must have recently entire the White House before Solomon took this picture. Or Solomon could have intentionally had a car drive into the White House before she took the picture. This is another fragment that part takes in bringing the whole picture together.
Lastly, the darkness of the gate of the White House is a vital detail for the narrative. The strong negative of the photograph helps bring viewer attention to the gate and what surrounds the gate. Ultimately, through all these different elements and details, Solomon is portraying a form of a statement.
The Thing Itself, The Frame, Time, Vantage Point
In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski states that the first characteristic is the thing itself. The “thing itself” means that photography provides a representation of the real world. Photographers focus on divulging what already exists. In the White House Gate image, Rosalind Solomon emphasizes a place that already exists. Specifically, that is very known to the US population and others around the world. But in the picture, she decided to center the image on the gate instead of the actual White House buildings itself.
Next, the “frame” refers to the edge and the border between the elements of the real scene that the photographer decided to include, and what they decided not to include. Solomon chooses to focus the photograph on the frame, specifically on the White House gate when viewers first see the image.
The fourth characteristic is “time” which provides the photographed location over time. Furthermore, the photographs can not directly represent the past or the future but can imply it. In The Photographer’s Eye, Szarkowski mentions two ways that time exposure produces images and insight. The first one is long time exposure and, the second one is a short time exposure. In the White House Gate image, we see time play a role with the snow falling and car tire marks in the snow. The snow informs us of what season it currently was when the picture was taken; which was winter and, the time the picture was taken it was snowing.
Finally, Szarkowski identifies the “vantage point.” The vantage point is when the photograph shows us the world from a variety of unusual angles and perspectives, which can alter our perspective of the world. Solomon portrays the image of the White House gate through a unique vantage point that can allow viewers to interpret the image in many different ways.
Biography. Rosalind Fox Solomon, Accessed March 22, 2021, www.rosalindfoxsolomon.com/bio
Rosalind Fox Solomon. (2021, January 30). Accessed March 22, 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosalind_Fox_Solomon
White House Gate, Washington, D.C. (Getty Museum). (1977, January 01). Accessed April 04, 2021, http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/128245/rosalind-solomon-white-house-gate-washington-dc-american-1977/
Szarkowski, John. The Photographer’s Eye. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2009.
About The Author: Laila Ali is a junior enrolled at Bryn Mawr College. Class of 2022.
Text by Aaron Graybill, Copyright 2021
An Exploration: Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife (Allie MaeBurroughs)
This report will explore one of Walker Evans’s most famous works, Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife (Allie Mae Burroughs) through historical and analytical lenses to uncover why the photograph is so powerful and timeless. I will begin with a brief biographical sketch of Walker Evans and the historical context behind Allie Mae Burroughs. Next, I will discuss how the medium and presentation of the photograph affect its impression on the viewer. I will then argue that this photograph is best viewed through the lens of “detail” as defined in John Szarkowski’s The Photographer’s Eye. Finally, I will then discuss how the other four lenses in The Photographer’s Eye come together to make this photograph as significant and emotive as it is.
Walker Evans: Biographical and Historical Context
Walker Evans was able to fuse the realism and rawness of the American experience with sophisticated and thoughtful photographic techniques that let the meaning of the images shine through. Walker was born in Saint Louis in 1903 and was interested in art in multiple forms for his entire life. Eventually, Evans turned to photography and found success working with the Resettlement Administration (RA)/Farm Security Administration (FSA). But to understand the significance of this work, it is important to first discuss why a government agency hired Walker Evans to document rural American lives.
The Great Depression left rural farmers particularly vulnerable, and the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration sought to relocate farmers to areas where they could be more productive (which helped both the farmers and the economy at large). To incentivize these moves, the Resettlement Administration and later the Farm Security Administration hired photographers like Walker Evans, Dortohea Lange, and Marion Post Walcott to highlight the opportunities that were available to those who chose to move. Whether or not Evans and others followed the wishes of the RA/FSA, is dubious, nevertheless the situations the FSA contracts provided Evans were unique and historically important giving rise to Allie Mae Burroughs and other photographs like it.
A final note about the subject of the photograph. Allie Mae Burroughs was the wife of a tenant farmer. A tenant farmer, for context, was a farmer who farmed rented land and left some of the profits for the landlord. These farmers faced the challenge of not having property to fall back on during the Great Depression, so they were targeted by the RA/FSA because they were hit harder than most during the Great Depression.
Medium and Presentation
The photograph as displayed in the Lutnick fine arts center at Haverford College is a gelatin silver print that is 9.1”x7.1”. The gelatin silver print offers the print longevity and adequate gloss to accentuate the lowlights in the print. This medium is important because the texture on the background wall and patterns in the subject’s shirt benefit from the additional pop that the glossy gelatin provides. The print is also over matted with a beveled edge on the window which subtly draws the viewer’s eye in towards the subject while the large over mat gives the viewer plenty of space to see the print in isolation. The size of the print is worth noting as well. 9.1”x7.1” is not particularly large but still leaves enough room for the background to be seen in isolation. Additionally, the size is not so large that the totality of the image is hard to view.
The final component of the medium and presentation is the quality of the print itself. The print has strong contrast without making the subject or background seem unnatural. Without access to the negative, it is hard to say how the qualities of the print were achieved. However, the print may be burned in some areas (particularly around the subject) to make the subject stand out from the wall behind her.
“The Detail” in Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife
In John Szarkowski’s The Photographers Eye, he acknowledges that the photographer is limited in ways that other artists are not. Photographers are restricted to represent what they see, not what they wish to see. Sometimes, the setting that the photographer finds themselves in is scattered and inconsistent. The photographer is a curator and must decide which elements of the setting are worth including in the frame and which are not. Szarkowski writes about the photographer: “From reality before him he could only choose the part that seemed relevant or consistent, and that would fill his plate” (Szarkowski 2009, 42). Working for the FSA documenting the entirety of the American experience, “the detail” is immensely important. The world that Evans documented was inconsistent and fragmented, so selecting the parts that held together made for powerful photographs.
Alabama Tenant Farmer’s Wife provides little in the way of context which is why it is well suited to be analyzed through “the detail”. The subject is dressed plainly and is photographed directly against a wooden wall. The photograph does not provide any recognizable information about where the photograph was taken geographically. Furthermore, it does not provide any information about where the photograph was taken even on a local scale. The subject’s proximity to their background makes it unclear whether or not the subject is photographed at their place of residence, work (which was likely the same for a farmer), or worship. This creates an ambiguity in the image that allows the viewer to analyze the nuances of the subject and the background without analyzing its political and social contexts. However, the ambiguity creates universality and relatability. The background could be at anyone’s house and the enigmatic expression on the subject makes the photo both universal and timeless. The Met Museum describes the subject’s expression as having the “psychological ambiguity of a Mona Lisa” ( Metropolitan Museum of Art). In addition, the subject’s hair is somewhat unkempt, which heightens the organicness and relatability of the photograph.
Another component that heightens the effect of “the detail” in this shot is the use of depth of field. Both the subject and the background are in focus which allows all of the areas of the image to be viewed in isolation. The depth of field brings out the subtleties in the texture of the wood and the subject’s clothes. The viewer’s eye is not forced to a certain in-focus area and can peruse the details of the image at its own pace.
All of these components come together to make the image an experience that is meant to be felt, not dissected and make “the detail” the dominant characteristic of this photograph.
Szarkowski’s Other Four Characteristics
Now I will more briefly discuss how the other characteristics in The Photographer’s Eye can be applied to this photograph for a richer understanding of its impact. First and foremost is “the thing itself” which Szarkowski describes as the relationship between that which is actual and seen versus that which is captured in the photograph. The photographer must filter out certain things and accept that certain potentially unwanted things might be in the frame to capture other elements. Walker Evans, as previously mentioned keeps the subject close to his background leaving little room for external distractions in the image. Yet in the image, Walker is also forced to tell only one piece of the subject’s life. The subject is expression, physique, and clothing are what we have to go on, so Walker’s selection of this print must encapsulate some meaningful component of the subject’s life.
We already discussed “the detail”, so the next topic is “the frame.” The frame of this image does not draw too much attention to itself and the way the shot is laid out seems to suggest that the wooden wall continues for many feet in all directions outside of the frame’s boundary. I believe that this has the effect of making the subject feel like a small part of the scene and the world as a whole. However, the crisp portraiture allows for the details in the subject to show while using the frame to accentuate that there is nuance even in the unseen.
Szarkowski’s fourth category is “time” which I think is quite present in this photograph, albeit not in the usual way. Usually, images evoking a sense of time use movement and blur to show evolution over time. This image takes almost the opposite approach. Even without close inspection, this feels like an image from the Great Depression. The image captures a moment in time felt by all Americans, instead of the movement of one. In many ways, the Great Depression was a period where time stood still, and this moment, frozen in time captures that feeling in an ineffable way.
Finally, Szarkowski discusses “vantage point”. Usually, this is taken quite literally, as in when a photographer takes a picture from a physical place that is outside of the usual context we view the world. Vantage point manifests itself in two ways for me in this image. First, the RA/FSA put Walker Evans into situations where he was essentially foreign and saw the world from a very different perspective to those who lived there. This gave Walker Evans a unique vantage point for each of the photographs he took, even when shooting unadorned portraiture.
The other component of vantage point that I see is even more general. Walker Evans’s body of work for the RA/FSA gave other Americans a vantage point into the diversity of experience that their country held and still holds. The modern accessibility of photography both amateur and professional understates the power that Evans’s work held when it was first released. These photographs were some people’s only contact with rural America. His work captured a fleeting moment in time still sends a powerful message even 80 years on.
Szarkowski, John, “The Photographer’s Eye,” The Museum of Modern Art, 2009
Wikipedia contributors, “Resettlement Administration,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Resettlement_Administration&oldid=101005462 4 (accessed March 20, 2021).
Author unknown, “Walker Evans (1903–1975),” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/evan/hd_evan.htm (accessed March 20, 2021).
Author unknown, “Alabama Tenant Farmer Wife,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/284685 (accessed March 20, 2021).
Wikipedia contributors, “Farm Security Administration,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Farm_Security_Administration&oldid=10044463 12 (accessed March 20, 2021).
About The Author: Aaron Graybill is a junior enrolled at Haverford College, Haverford, Pennsylvania. Majoring in Economics.