A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Degas, Updike & The Snapshot
Wednesday, June 05, 2013




When I snapped my granddaughter Rebecca at Uxmal in 2007, my purpose was to take what I called then a snap shot. This was sort of a photographer’s avoidance of a busman’s holiday. As a professional photographer who usually uses big equipment and lights the idea of having to seriously compose a shot while on vacation in Mexico was a tall order for me. So I posed Rebecca and snapped the shutter of what I believe was her little point and shoot digital camera.


A Summer's End
Perhaps only a month later, by the end of the summery I snapped Rebecca in my rose bed while she was holding a butterfly net. I was testing a Nikon FM-2 that I wanted to buy at Leo’s. I took some pictures with it but returned it when I realized the built-in exposure meter was not working. And yet the picture I took of Rebecca, which was supposed to be a snap ended up being much more. I have it framed in our guest bathroom and I gave it the romantic title A Summer’s End.


To me the picture of Rebecca in Uxmal is a snap, and he second one is more. It is a revealing portrait of a little girl about to cease being one and reflecting my own idea that the hot summer days were just about over.

Today I am enjoying Just Looking – Essays on Art by John Updike. I found this lovely book at my Kerrisdale Public Library. It was a random find.

Updike writes of Degas:

His most brilliant and characteristic achievement might be described as the patient invention of the snapshot, before the camera itself was technically able to arrest motion and record the poetry of visual accident. Equipped with a collage of sketches and the compositional example of Japanese prints, he began in the early1870s, to make pictures truly novel in their off-center foci, the cropping action of their edges, their unexpected points of vantage and dramatic perspectives, the electric violence of their lighting. The discovery of stage lighting, as a means of organizing a painting, effectuated an intensification of his vision, favoring his virtuoso draftsmanship and reducing color to a matter of highlights. In the Orchestra of the Operá, the orchestra in the foreground is a dark mass of naturalistic portraits – each musician personally identifiable – and the background of actual performance is impressionistically splashed across the top, the dancers dissolved in light and cut off at their necks.





With the digital camera-in-the-phone the snapshot is now supreme. I wonder how many snappers might suspect that Degas was doing it better and without an iPhone?







     

Previous Posts
Clematis - Clitoris & Chiclets

The Bilbao Effect

My Maser Is Gone

Chasing Butterflies & Flying Stukas

Appomattox

Texting In 1864

The Dechronization of Wild Edric

Por Atrás

A Nice Cup Of Tea

I Smell Sweet Savours



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