Fangyi “Frank” Fan: Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski

Clock under Lamp - Book Review Inspired Work from Fangyi (Frank) Fan_photographs

Photo: Fangyi “Frank” Fan



Photography and Text by Fangyi “Frank” Fan, Copyright 2018


Book Review


Looking at Photographs by John Szarkowski


An album of 100 of the most fantastic pictures from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, Szarkowski’s Looking at Photographs was truly a splendid and inspirational book for anyone who has a passion to read about photography and aesthetics. The book not only showcased the role of photography throughout the last couple centuries, but also demonstrated the various forms of aesthetics pictures could carry to its audience.

In the early years of photography when Daguerre brought it to the world, the single use of cameras was recording human faces. In both William Shew’s “Mother and Daughter” and David Octavius Hill’s “D.O. Hill and W.B. Johnstone”, it is very straightforward to the audience what the subjects of the pictures were. The facial expression of subjects was also very clearly captured in the early days of photography. On another note, in the early 1900s, artists started expanding their subjects, also as partially the result of advancement in the technology. In Cunningham’s “Leaf Pattern”, the details of the leaves and the “accidental forms” they formed both implied that artists in that era started elevating their creativity given the evolvement of the technology, by photographing objects. Starting around the mid 1900s, another key, if not the most important, idea of photography emerged: memorializing specific moments. In David Douglas Duncan’s “Capt. Ike Fenton.”, a great portrait carried out an extensive and significant period of time – the Korean War. Such pictures no longer stayed at the level of their subjects, but they rather tell the audience a rich story was left behind.

Out of such many excellent pictures in this book, Charles Sheeler’s “Cactus and Photographer’s Lamp” stood out to me as its lighting and display of geometry were both very unique. The lamps right above and besides the plant both brought a sense of liveliness to the static picture as well as the various shades projected onto the wall.

With the inspiration from Sheeler of manipulating shades with the use of artificial light, I shot a picture at home. From my room, I selected a very basic, yet very important object in our daily life – the clock. Despite its small size and physical form, it constantly carries out motion. With the use of a lamp from the other side, I was able to capture the shadow of the hands inside the clock projected on the back wall. The composition of the shot was also carefully chosen so that the edge of the desk perfectly aligned with the diagonal of the picture. With motivation from Sheeler’s work, I was able to manipulate lighting in my work and also attempt unconventional geometric composition.


Portrait of Fangyi "Frank" Fan by Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018

Portrait of Fangyi “Frank” Fan by Esther Fleischer, Copyright 2018


About The Author: Fangyi “Frank” Fan is a Senior enrolled in the School of Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2018.

This entry was posted in Art, Book Reviews, Current Events, Documentary, History, Photography, Popular Culture, Student Life, UPenn, UPenn Photography.


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