Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The city, underground.

The relation between SUBJECT and IMAGE.
- Walker Evans, Luc Delaheye, Bruce Davidson and Michael Wolf

After studying these 4 photographers a little closer, and more specifically their series of subway photography, a thing I noticed was the photographers relation to the subject.

Evans and Delaheye uses the same method of a hidden camera in order to photograph people unaware of the situation. The motionless images allows us to linger in the faces of ordinary people, which the social rules of society won´t allow us in public.
on the contrary Davidson and Wolf is very much in your face photographers.
Davidson directly asks people if he can take their photo and their by gain a sort of reconstruction of the scene he was interested in to begin with.
And Wolf takes the photos as the train doors shut close on a stuffed subway. He´s object are unwilling participants in the images, and he gains that imitate reaction on peoples faces when you invade their personal space.

So the question is then - as I noticed in the last post – do we learn more about a person form them not knowing or from allowing them to participate?

Code inconnu, Michael Haneke, 2000

Luc Delahaye
L'Autre, 1999

"I stole these photographs between ’95 and ’97 in the Paris metro. ‘Stole’ because it is against the law to take them, it’s forbidden. The law states that everyone owns their own image. But our image, this worthless alias of ourselves, is everywhere without us knowing it. How and why can it be said to belong to us? But more importantly, there’s another rule, that non-aggression pact we all subscribe to: the prohibition against looking at others. Apart from the odd illicit glance, you keep staring at the wall. We are very much alone in these public places and there’s violence in this calm acceptance of a closed world.
I am sitting in front of someone to record his image, the form of evidence, but just like him I too stare into the distance and feign absence. I try to be like him. It’s all a sham, a necessary lie lasting long enough to take a picture. If to look is to be free, the same holds true for photographing: I hold my breath and let the shutter go."  - Luc Delahaye, L’Autre, Phaidon Press, London, 1999

L'Autre, untitled 

Luc Delahaye is a french photographer who started as a photo journalist in the 1980´s, he is particularly known for the work he did doing war in Afghanistan, Lebanon and Yoguslavia. In the beginning of the 1990´s he started to question the work he was doing; “ I had lost my faith in photography and I wanted to understand what it really is about. So I decided to see what would happen when no photographer is there, just the subject and the camera”
His first more contemporary project was “Portraits”. A project were he would ask homeless and poor people to have their portrait taken in a photo-booth, and thereby removing himself from the process. “They sat in this cramped booth while I was looking away; in the solitude of their experience they were confident in the machine, they knew it´s power of revelation. Those who have lost everything in life have nothing to hide, they are naked.”
His next project was L'Autre. For almost 2,5 years Delahaye secretly photographed passengers on the subway in Paris with a hidden camera. In order to take the images he pressed the shutter as the train door closed and photograph the person sitting in front of him. In that way the camera would not be heard and the object would not react. He then cropped the images to only show the faces and a little of the background, so that each face seems locked in a mask.

L'Autre, six cropped images.

Jean Baudrillard states in his introductory essay to L'Autre; “No-one is looking at anyone else. The lens alone sees, but it is hidden. What Luc Delahaye captures then isn´t exactly the Other (L'Autre) but what remains of the Other when he, the photographer isn´t there.”
The series explores a relationship between the photographer and the object, such as the american photographer Walker Evans did it in the 1930´s - by photographing people sitting opposite him with a hidden camera. The photograph then captures an anonymity between subject and camera.

The guard is down and the mask is off, even more than in lone bedrooms where there´s a mirror. People´s faces are in naked repose down in the subway.” - Walker Evans

Walker Evans, Many are called

By hiding the camera the subjects do not look at the photographer, but maintains their private space. The subjects mouth are slack, their eyes are unfocused and their features are not made up for a pose.
But when you study the images the faces are no longer passive or unaware, but withdrawn like they are hiding something. We attempt to put ourselves in their place when looking at the image, in order to understand them - and maybe in the end understand more about ourselves. We try to read a meaning into their faces, and force a significance onto them.
Baudrillard writes: “There’s the same reversal everywhere, expressing a fatigue on the part of the subject, a weariness of being oneself and asserting oneself. And also the secret confused demand that the Other should think us, that the objects of the world should think us”
L'Autre, untitled

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