america: repetition / A gallery by seann m hogan

This gallery contains photographs taken for LIFE Magazine between 1944 and 1972. Each image, taken by a different photographer, represents an issue from the past that still runs through the American fabric today. In one way or another, the social issues gripping American citizens have changed little over the last 70 years. 

In this image, we see a young girl pouring liquid from a pitcher into her glass. The photographer has used two forms of composition to frame the picture: the rule of thirds, and the golden triangles. The little girl in the image comes approximately two-thirds up the photograph, with her arm crossing the lower-third. The golden triangle is formed by the angle of the same arm. This composition allows the viewer to enjoy the image and take in the elements, over the form.
Grey Villet successfully portrays the chaos of shopping for a family on welfare through the use of variety and proportion. In this image from 1967, we see five figures facing the lens, and one facing away. In the foreground and the background are pants and jackets of many colors, textures and sizes. Despite this, the artist’s quick capture of each family member’s gaze on the central object shows us the consideration in this single purchase.
In this photograph by Bill Eppridge, we come across our first staged scene. The artist has stacked bottles of pills in an effort to draw attention to the growing reliance on modern medicine. Although laid out haphazardly, there is a balance to the structure that allows the viewer to take in the entire image. To further emphasize the pill bottles, they are surrounded by negative space; there is nothing else in the image.
Co Rentmeester captures fire fighters during the Watts Riot of 1966 in a a brief still moment. The artist is still able to portray motion in the image by setting his shutter speed to show the movement of a ventilation fan that one of the firefighters is using. Although this is clearly a time of pause, during an otherwise turbulent event, the fan brings life into the scene.
In 1947, a tornado ripped through Oklahoma, devastating the area. In Cornell Capa’s photograph, we see the aftermath. The power of the tornado can still be felt in the proportion of a man, sitting in a now open room; and the building itself, it’s exterior wall torn right off. The photograph’s lines are all in various directions, telling the viewer the the destruction chose no clear path.
In this slightly overexposed photograph by David E Scherman, the light value adds to the happiness the GIs must be feeling heading home. From the artist’s perspective, we see a large group of female soldiers on the deck of a ship. Some wear life preservers, some carry them, and a handful have nothing at all. The random pattern of soldiers is broken up by the lines of the ship’s deck, and a large bulkhead, perpendicular to the deck.
Peter Stackpole’s 1945 photograph 100 Octane Gas uses proportion to show how massive the gasoline refineries truly are. The photograph’s depth runs nearly infinitely, as we can clearly see the curvature of the earth. Parallel lines run through the right two-thirds of the image, and send us towards a vanishing point over the horizon.
In Town Hall Meeting, by Martha Holmes, we see several figures illuminated on a stage in an otherwise dark auditorium. The dark value of the photograph shows the importance of those on stage, and depicts a silent crowd. The composition shows several feet of dark cloth hanging above the stage, further placing emphasis on the central figures.
Heat in Washington, by Hansel Mieth, beautifully captures the motion and exuberance of summer. In the photo, we see four young boys playing in a fountain, with drops of water surrounding them. The water is slightly blurred, giving it life and bringing us into the scene. In the left side of the photograph, in the background, the artist has overexposed the image, giving it a light value and a feeling of intense sun to match the squint in the boy’s eyes.
There is a single subject, shown in the center of the photograph ‘GI Joe Family,’ by Alfred Eisenstaedt. A lone Jack Russell terrier patiently awaits his master, sitting alone on cement steps. The steps are uneven and turn slightly to the right. This contrasts the dogs upright posture and lends a unique balance to the photograph. The cement has a pocketed texture, and feels cold, adding to the pup's despair.
Credits: All media
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