Tuesday, April 15, 2008

subject echo: picnic

well, it seems to be subject echo week; i'm not gonna fight it.

here's one more pairing that has always struck me as kin: Henri Cartier-Bresson's "Sunday on the Banks of the River Marne" (1938) and Nan Goldin's "Picnic on the Esplanade" (1973).

what a difference 35 years makes.

i first saw Goldin's photo in the Phaidon 55 book of her work. the caption reads: "This photograph, among the first Goldin made in colour, shows many of the features that made her one of the first and foremost exponents of the snapshot aesthetic. This Easter picnic by the river in Boston shows Goldin's 'family' at that time, one of the happiest periods in her life. She was living with a group of drag queens, her heroines, and had already amassed a huge body of black-and-white photographs of them. It shows her lifelong obsession with social rituals and the pleasures of communal life."

it's especially interesting to me to contrast these two photographs knowing that this was one of the first shots Goldin took in her transition from black and white to color.

it also strikes me that Cartier-Bresson's image observes the two picnicking couples from behind, while Goldin gives the viewer their own seat at the picnic. which is her seat. at first the photograph does not appear as intimate as the work she became known for, but in that way, it is intimate, because the viewer is called to break bread with the subjects. (and celebrate Easter with them.)

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