Extra Photos: Some of Many

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Anima at the Corcoran Gallery of Art

Charlotte Dumas most recent collection focuses on the burial horses of Arlington Cemetery. These Army horses, which belong to the Old Guard—the 3rd Infantry Regiment – carry soldiers to their final resting place in traditional military funerals. Between 2010 and 2012, Dumas photographed them in their stables and at work. The title of the series, Anima comes from the Latin word meaning soul, which is interesting as it presents a unique perspective on its definition in the context of animals. The series is focused solely on animals, so the photographer is challenging the viewer to find the emotion and connection, i.e. the soul, in non-human subject matter. All the photos are shot from a first person perspective, using a variety of angles, at night. This collection also includes a number of photographs from previous collections, Reverie, Palermo 7 and Heart Shaped Hole; this critique will be focused only on those in Anima.

I particularly enjoyed the shadows the photographer used to highlight muscle groups within the body of the horses as they are resting. She narrows the focus of her shots so her subject takes up the majority of the space with in it, leaving little room to discern what is in the foreground. This prevents the viewer from becoming distracted from the subject matter by the background. All the shots are first person, as if the viewer is in the stable watching them sleep, with minimal change in angles from shot to shot. By using a realistic, straight on, view of the subjects, it allowed for an easy progression within the exhibit as a whole and kept a cohesive, unifying, aspect to the collection.


In the absence of sharp angles, the photographer uses light and darkness to illicit an emotion or surreal effect. This is aided by the coloring of the horses themselves as all the horses are either white or white speckled with grey, which illuminates the horses, keeping the background out of focus, in shadow. While the lighting is very minimal, artificial, and subdued, it is in keeping with the realistic portrayal of these animals in their state of rest. At times it almost seems that the light is preventing the animals from sleeping, as it is focused on their faces. However there are other photos, “Buck” in particular, that focus the light on their body, casting the hole face, except the nose in darkness, accentuating the shadow of the face being cast on the illuminated torso of the subject. It has an almost disorienting effect, as if trying to capture the feeling of the human eye adjusting to a sharp change in lighting.


The job of these horses is to carry dead soldiers to their final resting place in a formal military burial. This is a deeply personal connection that I believed would add to the emotional resonance of the photographs if that had been portrayed as well. The photos show the horses resting, but not what they are resting from. If the photos of them at rest were next to what they did during the day, I think it would have achieved a higher level of understanding to the viewer of the vulnerability and emotion the photos were trying to portray, juxtaposing moving the dead to be laid to rest next to the horses at rest.

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Vittorio Storaro

I realize that we were supposed to write about photographer, but I thought that I would being able to relate more to something that I’m more interested in and the concepts are similar, at least in my humble opinion.

Italian cinematographer, Vittorio Storaro, is the mastermind behind the powerful visuals of such films as Last Tango in Paris, Apocalypse Now, and The Last Emperor. His award winning approach to photography is based on a sophisticated philosophy inspired by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s theory of colors. This theory centers around the psychological affect of certain colors on the viewer. Vittorio Storaro is tied as the most decorated director of photography in motion picture history.  He has won three Academy Awards for cinematography and is the youngest recipient of the American Society of Cinematographer’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He also created the “Univision” film system, a 35mm format with a 2:1 aspect ratio.  While he has collaborated with a number of directors over many years, such as Francis Ford Coppola, Warren Beatty, and Dario Argento, his most frequent collaborator is Bernardo Bertolucci.
What makes him unique, at least in his time, was his heavy use of light and shadow.  Unlike many film noir lighting that had come before, that used shadows to keep the viewer in suspense of what they could not see, Vittorio would use shadows to illuminate the duality and to heavily contrast the intense sources of light.  Another commonly used technique is crafting overlapping images that add depth of meaning as to how the subjects of these frames relate to one another.
Saturation of light and dark, sometimes in the same image is a common theme throughout Vittorio’s career.  Most people are familiar with the use of shadow in Apocalypse Now to keep Marlon Brando’s presence from being completely revealed, but just as telling as the shadow is how saturated the light and detail the light brings out.  By having a strong contrast of both sources of light and darkness, there is a much stronger emotional impact of the image.  In line with his philosophy of color, he used natural and artificial lighting to contrast the combating cultures throughout the film. Moreover, in certain projects he focuses on one aspect of the color spectrum to enhance the mood of the action playing out on the screen. Of the infamous shoot, he believes it was a pivotal moment in his life, revealing his desire to “write with light.”
There is also a very strong sense of proportion, evenness and color, especially in his work with Bertolucci.  Rather than playing with focus, Vittorio uses more wide angles to keep the entire frame in focus, but uses lighting and color to focus our attention.  Another interesting aspect is how much of a centrist he is with his main characters, but with this depth, this is an overwhelming or envelopment of their surroundings.  Each element in that environment is individually lit so that you can have the foreground backlit and still have the center of the frame be over, while the left and right fields might be covered in shadow.  The source of lighting is never naturalistic but artificial in its creation of character’s plight and moral composition.



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PSA Poster: AKA What it Looks like when your Partner ABANDONS you after your computer ate your half of the assignment and you Finish on What can Only be described as a BENDER


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Persian Speak Out

This poster can be found at http://osocio.org/message/posters_for_green_iran/  and was created by the online graphic design company SocialDesignZine in August 2009 for the Green Iran surrounding the violent protests in that country around the same time period.  The poster supports a political agenda that many Iranians believe won the elections that year, but also comments on and challenges the current political regime that violently put down protests that questioned the authenticity of the elections.  The first thing that strikes me about this other than the contrast that brings out the green of the tongue by placing it over a very drab background is just how bizarre and striking the image is as it seems unnatural enough to make the viewer take a closer look at how the effect is created within the design.  I don’t think that the add necessarily creates associations with what it is talking about, but rather relies on the starkness and peculiarity to interest the viewer into further researching what the meaning behind image are.

My first interpretation is that the green tongue looked like a budding leaf, but once I realized it was a tongue extended to that degree, there was a slight sexual connotation without being overt though still palpable by the texture of the tongue that further highlights the green through contrasting points of different shades of color that allows the image to pop.  The darker complex of the face is almost perfectly camouflaged with a similar toned wall on the other side to further contrast the color of the tongue while keeping that composition of the picture in balance. The tongue is turned upside down to achieve a budding effect while also making the anatomy of the woman initially confusing at the lack of the rest of her face other than a mouth.  Not only is Green Iran referring to their environmental policy, though they are very green, it speaks to the inclusivity of Eastern thought that incorporates demilitarizing the government with this policies, while in the poster using the mouth as a duel purpose to represent a quality and to emphasize the importance of voice and spreading the message of what happened to many Iranian protestors.  The extension of the tongue as a leaf also denotes movement in growth but the still emptiness that surrounds it feels repressive.

The statement that is made by poster is how humanity transcends confines and that like the policies that are part of that platform; they will find a way to flourish because they are an inherent part of Iranian, if not all human culture so long as we do not corrupt ourselves.  Unlike many of the posters done for this movement of fingers being cut off and other atrocities, this acknowledges the violence while portraying the oppressed as strong and vibrant enough to endure what is ahead of them.  To me the poster works because though it doesn’t immediately communicate the idea, it does have much deeper meaning and symbolism while still maintaining its visual poignancy.  I think that the wording might have been more directed, but by not directly addressing the killings, the message has more of a timeless quality that is still meaningful years after where many of the other prints from this time are not.

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Examples of the Elements and Principles of Design as seen in Middle Easter Art

أمثلة للعناصر ومبادئ التصميم كما رأينا في عيد الفصح الفن الأوسط

The main aspects, at least that I can see in Middle Eastern art, though I have to say that the term is very broad, is that of unity or even unity through lines and their patterns.  Most of the art is practical and to be shared in the every day.  Arabic letters, always written in cursive, create a line that often gives the sense of movement, and also provides texture to many of the vases that it is printed on.  Rather than variation their is a sense of trying to reach perfection in very old and traditional art forms.

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Middle Eastern Art Exhibit Complete

This gallery contains 67 photos.

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