Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two Photographs by Julien Legrand

My "analysis" of each of the following photographs follows a method outlined by Minor White and Walter Chappel.  The method is a multi-step process in which the viewer records first impressions, explores the "geography" of the photograph, makes associations, and then attempts to tell the "story" of "the journey" provoked by the image, its "geography" and associations.  I'm not sure I'm doing this right... it's always a tricky endeavor to apply words to visual art.  In an online interview, Legrand said he wants his photographs "to make people ask themselves questions, to let their imaginations run free".  I hope at least I have obliged him on those accounts.

 First image: "Unusual Banality" (image #15 of 27)

The Story

It begins as a joke.  A small boy has (apparently) had an accident and even if we did not witness it, “the evidence” leads directly to him.  The “evidence” is a curved line, a kind of wry smile at the boy’s expense.  At the mother’s expense too.  She hurries away, down the street and out of the frame.  But they are both trapped, and caught.  The photographer’s eye freezes them; his shadow testifies to their “guilt” because it is his presence that connects the evidence to the boy.

The photograph appears in a collection titled “Unusual Banality”.  Nothing more banal than a little boy pissing himself (or is it only spilled soda pop?) and the routine “work” of motherhood.  She has shopping to do, her own baggage to carry.  She carries his backpack too, and holds his hand.  She hurries him along.  The entire photograph flows away.  The lines and shadows move in the direction of the two figures that are also feeling.  But a subtle, snickering chaos of lines dances at their backs, points to them, traps them in a vortex of crisscross.  The only thing not in motion is the photographer’s shadow.  He smiles, letting us in on the joke.

Second Story

There is a potential fire, an emergency that must be contained primarily by pipes, but also by the heaviness of stone, and by the brightness of light and shadow.  Nothing can move, because if something starts moving, the entire edifice will empty itself in a chaos of passion.   

Here is power-- controlled, civilized, reigned in.  Official tubes provide the access to the control necessary to keep this immense facade from coming down.  The tubes are motionless for now, but they await the signal.  There is one for going up, and another for coming down.  Neither is in use.  Both are ready.  They lead into the wall, behind it, and deep into the interior.

And also there is a young girl.  She wears sheer stockings and brand-name sneakers.  The sneakers are fast.  She is ready too.  She is anonymous.  We see only her legs.  Where do they lead?!
The sunlight assails both fortresses and cannot penetrate, as we cannot, these interiors.  One is of stone, the other is flesh and blood.  The stone cannot move; it is in a perpetual state of emergency.  The girl will bolt in an instant, not to flee the fire, but to seek it.

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