The entire history of human expression, slightly abridged
So for my “What I Learned” posts on photography, I will be reading (re-reading, actually) and referring to Within the Frame by David duChemin, which is the first in a series of four photography books recommended to me by the photographer Chrissy Deiger. I’ve decided to go back and re-read the first volume in duChemin’s series.
In re-reading, I came across this passage:
The most compelling photographs you take begin with the things about which you are most interested, most passionate, and most curious. When those photographs are taken in a way that communicates your unique perspective, they translate into images that say something. They are more than a record of ‘I was here and saw this.’ Instead, they become ‘I feel this way about this. I was in this place and saw it like this.’ They are not acts of representation as much as they are acts of interpretation.
The language that duChemin uses immediately throws me back to Ron Burnett and his vantage point-image world dialectic. Burnett is more concerned with historical analysis; he is also less dogmatic about the construction of images. These difference probably hold true between photographers and media scholars around the world, of course, but it is very important–vital, I think–that we be aware of the vocation (and, possibly, rhetorical agenda) of the experts that we read for this or any class. duChemin’s language is shaped by his life and work, just as Burnett’s is. Having read both, we are all asked to triangulate our own beliefs and interests between and among them.
After reading this on Friday, I went out with some friends and wound up at the Elks Lodge (professional decorum prevents me from announcing the deejay’s name, but you can look it up). I took some photos–now that we’re in the photography unit, I take photos daily, constantly–and then I went through them later, yesterday and today, trying to figure out which one moved me the most, which represented something that I wanted to communicate.
The composition is static, not dynamic, more concerned with color and shape than with movement. Which is funny, because it’s a photo of a dance floor.
There are a couple of things I like about the photograph.
The first is the vantage point. The shot is taken from the edge of the dance floor–from just past the doorway on that side, if you know the Elks’–but even if you can’t tell it’s the edge, or past the edge, both of the people in the foreground have their backs to the camera. There is a specific moment that the photo catches, for me, that moment in the middle of a night of dancing–sometimes it happens multiple times–when, in the middle of dancing, you look up or look around and see the bodies around you both as people, friends and strangers, but also as a composition, as shapes, colors, dimension, perspective. Intense, but not necessarily dramatic. Not strobe-light posing, something gentler, more human, less vain, still intensely felt, though.
The second thing I like is the characters. The dancer in the center-right is the main character, if that makes sense, and the semi-hunch in her shoulders make it seem like she’s about to make her move. Over her right shoulder there is a pair of eyes; the dancer who the eyes belong to is mostly blocked by another dancer standing right in front of her. The dance floor is also a specific setting, different from Necto, different from the Mezzanine or Le Duplex or the Make Out Room (all in SF) or Bar Isn’t It (in Sendai) or The Hub (in Kobe), smaller, more intimate.
The third thing I like is the color. The saturating red–police light red, bleeding into the figures, even–and those two bars of bright, glowing purple in the upper left quadrant. Aside from the details of the striped shirts in the foreground, the scene is a silhouette backlit in that pulsing, emergency, heartbeat red.