In an effort to further extend my education concerning photography, an artistic medium of which I am extremely fond, I recently checked out Photo: Box from my local library. I loved that so many photographers were profiled, 210 total, in one volume but wished that there was more of a collection of each artist’s work, rather than a single image chosen to represent an entire lifetime of photos.
Nonetheless, there were plenty of artists profiled within that I found particularly appealing, even if all I had to go on was a single photo and a short description of their work.
I studied Sociology in college and really spring a sociological framework to all aspects of my life. I’m not sure if this is on account of my general constitution or if my education has made me this way - it’s one of those the chicken or the egg situations. Nonetheless, I find it to be a very apt way to view the world, its people, and its problems. So I was extremely drawn to plenty of the photographers covered in the reportage section, particularly Steve McCurry and Martin Parr.
McCurry is probably most famous for his arresting photograph of a young Afghan refugee girl with piercing green eyes which made it to the cover of National Geographic. I was particularly moved by Mother and child at a car window, an image captured in Bombay in the mid-1990s. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the same side of the car window as the photographer in the vast metropolis that is Bombay (Mumbai) or maybe it’s the dual vibrancy and destitution McCurry captures so completely in his images of South-East Asia. Whatever the reason, I find myself completely captivated by his images. Here are just a few of the most compelling ones I’ve come across yet.
Sometimes it takes me a little while to “get” certain pieces of art. There is definitely a lot to be said for personal interpretation - if a work of art moves you in a certain way, even if that way does not fall in line with the artist’s intentions, the experience is still a highly valid and extremely important one for the viewer. I have found myself in this situation plenty a time and hold those particular works very dear.
When it came to Martin Parr, however, I felt like, for once, I looked at an artist’s piece and knew what was truly being said by the artist himself. Parr’s images are not necessarily known for being aesthetically pleasing or full of beauty. Rather, he exposes a lot of the absurdities and ironies of modern society. He puts a lot of things we take for granted as a part of modern day life and culture into a new perspective to reveal its very foundational ridiculousness. Bringing a classic British sense of humor to his photographs, Parr is the photographer who captures seemingly ordinary life but turns it on its hand to challenge our misguided notions of normalcy and sensibility. I guess part of the reason I'm so drawn to his work is that I feel like I actually "get it." Parr comments on the nonsense of modern day society from the same vantage point that I tend to bring to the table.
This is definitely not a comprehensive review of Photo: Box and I could never possibly offer anything nearing complete coverage of all the valuable photographic genius contained therein. I do highly recommend that anyone interested in photography as art, especially novices, pick this one up. It’s a great way to acquaint yourself with the photographic art in a wide variety of settings and circumstances. And since it contains some 250 photographs, you are bound to find an image or an artist within that has true meaning for you.