Photography and Text by Wenjia Guo, Copyright 2018
John Szarkowski: Looking at Photographs
When I first got this book, I was wondering why we need to look at such a “history” book to learn photography. The book I rented from Cornell University first surprised me with its date due list, whose first reader rented it in 1984, ten years before I was born. This magical feeling seemed to have nothing to do with photography technique, but related to the most important thing I absorbed from the book — the historical significance of photo selection, which I understand as real important.
The first time I read Looking at Photographs, I just focused on the pictures without tasting the articles, the first time, portraitures mainly caught my eye. The eye contact, the hairstyles, the clothes, even the gestures showed the harmony with the environmental background of the time. But after reading each picture’s introduction, I found even gestures are more vivid, needless to say landscape photography, architecture photography and other genres have come to my awareness. The historical background is quite charming. When you see a man with his hands crossed holding his head chatting with others, the situation that farmers in those those years with not much work to do, instead had plenty of time for conversation is reasonable but a little bit surprising.
However, what inspired me most in the book is the staircase photo, which was created by Tina Modotti when she lived in Mexico in the years 1923 through 1926. Pictures of architecture definitely shows the combination of materials, the wood, the metal, the concrete all have diverse brightness, and even it is a picture of black and white, I could feel the different temperature when sun light heated them. What’s more, the powerful straight lines created a wonderful geometric pattern, the perspective of the stairs as well as the handrail created a spiral of beauty.
The light in this picture that I created is also attractive, it comes from the back and forms a different kind of depth. So, during my travel week in Miami, I paid a lot of attention when I visited different buildings, trying to find some contemporary characteristics of architecture and how the light and materials played in the view. When I stood in the hall of New World Center by Frank Gehry, I see the flow curvature, the prefabrication technique, the slowly rising stairs, the elegant boundary of windows and walls, as well as the light gently irradiated from a particular distance.
About The Author: Wenjia Guo is a Graduate student in the School of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania. To access additional articles by Wenjia Guo, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/wenjia-guo-emotional-change/