Sunday, February 7, 2010

Joel Sternfeld

McLean, Virginia, December 1978

At first glance I found this photograph beguiling. A fireman buying a pumpkin while a house blazes in the backround - in December. This image appears in Sternfeld's most known book, American Prospects (1978). The book explores the irony of human-altered landscapes in the United States.

It was later revealed that the fire in this image was no accident but part of a practical training exercise carried out by the local MVFD. What is important is that there was no prior arrangement between the MVFD and Sternfeld to have this photograph taken. Sternfeld came upon the scene mid-afternoon, set up the 8x10 he had stored in his car and captured the image. Chance favours the prepared mind and Sternfeld in this case happened to be in the right place at the right time. The setting, season and time of day are all important aspects of this images's formation.

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