Robert Franks- The Americans
Throughout the images The Americans by Robert Frank, there is a heavy overtone of isolation. Speaking in all the photographs is a powerful voice that comes from the juxtaposition of space, bodies, and focus. A strong presence of monotony can be felt, this monotony is expressed throughout the expressions of lost or perplexed faces- the subjects seem to be in their own world, in their own minds, all relating to the other, but yet completely isolated from one another. We see this in the photograph Trolley New Orleans with the harsh literal divisions of space around each passenger. The photo displays a variety of people on the trolley, different ages and ethnicities, different personalities and different reactions to the presence of the camera- But as they are a body of passengers on this day in 1955, they are harshly separated in the composition. The harsh horizontal and vertical lines serve as bold divisions in the space that makes up the trolley as a whole. The passengers are united in the same scenario, but each in their own seat or row- they are in a world of their own with different reactions, perceptions, and literal division of space. We see this strong division throughout the series as a whole, divisions of space and isolation, each expressed in different ways through each of the subjects. This is seen in Parade, Hoboken New Jersey: 2 human subjects in the same place, in the same country, in the same composition, yet distinctly apart from each other in opposite windows- literally masked and divided by the american flag- a strong symbol of what Frank is aiming to depict. This isolation is also expressed in Movie Premiere- Hollywood, Elevator- Miami Beach, and Political Rally- Chicago. Frank ingeniously composes and notes the everyday separations of american citizens, capturing this separation in a way that speaks volumes through the intimate relationships between subjects and the american spaces they inhabit.
I believe that Franks photographs are just as impacting today in 2011 as they were in the 1950’s. Not only can they be respected as valid representations of history in the U.S., but also as a bold statement about humanity in general. I think that the isolation and lack of unity that the photographs express can still be found in humanity- as a culture of people, we are still harshly separated by class, race, political stances, religious practices, and simple intolerance for each other. All in all- we are the same human race, same citizens making up the body of America, and the same bodies all developing, growing and living in one community of people, yet isolating ourselves from one another which I think is exactly what Frank was working so diligently to portray.
Basic White Dress. 1947, by Richard Avedon. ICP collection.
“Basic white dress”, a stunning photograph by Richard Avedon, depicts a simply beautiful woman striking a very strong yet delicate pose. She stands upright with her back to the viewer, the perfect angle for an undoubtedly feminine shot of her profile, simply wearing a basic white accordion pleated dress. What makes this photograph so interesting is not necessarily the subject, although the subject instantly intrigues the viewer with her beauty, but it is rather the composition, the line, the movement of the photo that really entices the audience. The woman stands firmly, her left foot in the left bottom corner, and her right pointing outward to the right side of the picture plane. Her legs spread to hold this stance- she straddles a bold geometric line leading from the bottom left, to up and around from one shoulder to the other and then out of the frame; fading in the distance. Her dress folds open, encompassing a great deal of space in the composition with the accordion lines leading up her legs to her waist. On her waist she wears a tied belt- a knot or a messy bow- a strong place of focus. From there leads up to her petite shoulders, one arm on her left hip and the other hanging naturally at her side, hand resting on her thigh. The lines of this piece; the lines of her dress, the strong angles of her body, the receding lines from around the figure then exiting the frame, all keep the eye moving while creating a great sense of shape in the composition.
I chose this photograph for symbol because it interests me with its fashion-feel and through the overall sense of femininity and strength. Symbol is meant to be something regarding or representing something else, a symbol of what something truly is or what it is meant to be. I feel that the woman in this photograph is a very just symbol of what a woman is. She is bold- her stance is strong and not something easily looked away from. She stands firmly in her own body, her figure standing naturally, holding her balance and remaining there in a comfortable manner. While being strong, she is also feminine, showing that the two are very much hand-in-hand. The grace of her flowing dress draping freely from her waist, shoulders petite yet valid in the shape of her stance, her profile- not looking directly to the camera, but captivating enough that such a beauty is there, yet doesn’t need to be direct. This photo kept me looking, kept me staring even. The beauty of her presence and where it is placed in the frame was stunning to me. Even the dreamy feel of the moment as the lines she stands over fade to white out of the frame. My interest was sparked- I want to know more about this woman, about her dress and where she is and why she’s there. She is a strong and delicate symbol of what a woman is, and as a woman, I think that will never not interest me.