What is one of the major goals of art? Art reflects the society and a battle between the external world and the human inward. For instance, fashion is much more than just clothes; it is a reflection of a person through the prism of his mental world, knowledge, and emotion, and, what is more important, a way of communication. And photography, in turn, is also much more than just beautiful, or strange pictures. Given the subjective nature of its creation, what do photographs offer the viewer? Photography challenges the audience to search for truth, “in a fragmented, episodic or emblematic way, it helps us to explore contemporary cultures and its concerns” (Evans, P. 334). It is also important to say that the true photography content “is invisible, it only deals with time” (Berger, P. 256). This is why the photograph is rapidly different from the motion picture, for example, as it has its own montage (Michaud, P. 404). It is also the way of communication. Photography sends messages and reflects struggles. The aim of this paper is to identify the key features of ten photographs and the theme of struggling they depict demonstrating the power of the photograph and the subjective nature of pictorial ‘truth.’
The first photograph shows Swarovski croco-brogues made by Agnes Varnai for #DieAngewandte show in Vienna. It shows a pair of leather shoes with large crystal teeth on their tops. Agnes Varnai is a fashion designer, and these brogues were a part of her graduation collection. The first that comes to mind, when the one looks at them, is aggression. The brogues are made for wearing and surely show the aggression of their owner towards the world around. Every day, the society tries to influence us and build our mind and convictions upon the system. Such aggressive shoes and clothes challenge these attempts and at the same time make their owner more self-confident and certain about his or her vision of truth.
The second photo is from the Raf Simons Redux. Raf Simons is the modern Belgian designer known for his idea that fashion is much more than just clothes and celebrities. The quotation that appears on the main page of his website says, “I don’t want to show clothes, I want to show my attitude, my past, present and future. I use memories and future visions and try to place them in today’s world” (Raf Simons [no date]). Generally, the picture is dual. The first thing that catches the attention of the viewers is the center of the photo, a river that flows between hills and mountains. However, upon a closer view, the picture awakens an image of a face covered with hands, a typical pose of a struggling, suffering, and thinking person. A river is a flow of emotions and thoughts, an internal conflict. According to Simons’ point of view, fashion is a reflection of human inwardness. Just like the steady motion of the river, challenges constantly flow into life and flow out of it, and fashion reflects these changes. Notably, from a professional standpoint, the photograph is made according to the established rules: the main object is centered against a dark background, which focuses the viewer’s attention on the small details of the picture. The deep sense of the photo appears after its further examinations.
The third piece of art belongs to Jaime Martinez. It was shown on the Cutout Festival Interactive. Jaime Martinez is known for the themes of the mystery and beauty of the woman and for the demonstration of her charm against the background of nature. The same theme is observed in the current photo. It shows two female hands against a valley and a river in the background. The hands are relaxed, the moonlight reflects on the surface of the river, and the photo creates an atmosphere of overwhelming peace. The effect on the photo reminds light inversion, and the dominant colors are violet and blue. The light makes woman’s skin look almost transparent; the viewer can clearly see all her veins. Thus, the woman is shown as a fragile human creature. Next, it is important to make a point of the position of hands. They are raised up, and against the background of the river, remind of a drowning person. However, it is not frightening; the water is calm and suggests hope. What exactly do make a woman beautiful? Her duality. A woman seems to be fragile and weak but does not afraid of “drowning” showing her internal strength and readiness to accept the growth through struggle. From a professional point of view, the composition of the photograph allows it to be both informative and precise.
The next photograph is a part of Fred Perry x Raf Simons campaign. The photograph shows a picture of a man whose eyes are taped with a piece of silver sticky tape. The dominant color of the picture is blue. Given the unknowable nature of truth, the audience is reminded that the missing features of a photo are almost as important as what’s present. Let’s be honest: sometimes, it is much easier just to close your eyes. The world around affects us imposing its opinion and forcing us to contravene with our convictions and beliefs. What does really make us struggle? The world, the government, and the society. Closing eyes and losing our eyesight surely is not the best decision. The photograph is a part of the fashion campaign. Keeping in mind Simons’ words quoted above, the one can suggest that he tried to show his attitude to the world of today and to send a message, “don’t look at them, just be yourself.”
The fifth photo shows Il Martirio di San Valentino (St. Valentine’s Martyrdom) by Andrea Mastrovito. This piece of art was presented in 2011 on the group show Gentlemen of Verona. The picture features two boys: one of them beheads the other one. The major colors are white and gray; the red one plays a role of an accent color as immediately catches the viewer’s attention. It is clearly obvious that it depicts blood. Il Martirio di San Valentino is one more image of struggling. We do not know the reasons that made one boy to kill another, but we can see that the victim reconciles his fate. He is not bounded and does not look like he was ready to resist. At the same time, we cannot clearly see the face of another boy and say if he beheaded his victim with pleasure or because was forced to. The parallel between the piece of art and the legend about St. Valentines lies in death: Valentine was beheaded like the boy in the picture.
The sixth picture shows burning men running from a fire in an attempt to escape being harmed. It looks like a screenshot from the security camera or the movie. The picture is highly dynamic, and the movement is one of the key elements here. The fire represents destruction that consumes all we have. People are running, panicking and hoping to find rescue. The picture is indistinct, and the viewers cannot see the pain but can feel it on the basis of their knowledge: burning is extremely painful. These elemental features emphasize the dichotomous struggles within society: aggression and calmness, evil and goodness, war and peace, death and life. Moreover, fire may represent the internal human struggle. Fire is not only visible; it also could be invisible and burn our insides. The internal chaos can often turn to be an external one, and an external chaos is more meaningful and substantial. The visible battle between men and fire on the picture is a reflection of the internal battle that takes place in the human inwardness. Can the men in the picture be rescued? They are burning but not dying. The vision of the consequences is left for the viewers.
The seventh photograph was made by Lina Scheynis. It shows a young woman dancing around in a long red cape. From a professional point of view, we see a mannequin, a model with historical invisibility but visible job (Evans, P. 400). Drawing only from aesthetics, the woman’s movements are easy and flawless and suggest a desire to fly away. The movement of the cape also suggests the presence of wind - her figure seems to be oversized. The woman appears emotionless and somewhat disconnected from reality; she is merely a soul, a symbol of the last dance of life. The spotlight is directed on the woman and it seems to be following her, wherever she goes. In this light, the picture reminds the modern spectator that with our increasingly public “private lives,” somebody is always watching us; we all adorn the spotlight and there is no escaping it. This photograph suggests that freedom is merely an illusion and all we can do is attempt to hide our personal, inner worlds. This necessitation mothers the conflict between the expectations of society and our real inner men and makes us think if we should be accepted by society or can be ourselves.
The next photograph is simultaneously realistic and highly symbolic; a woman’s hair is sucked into the vacuum cleaner. This image suggests a powerful dominating force that she cannot escape. The woman is struggling, but what does her struggle really mean? The one can suggest that the woman fights with the world around. With her hair being sucked into the vacuum cleaner, she cannot see the world around her and cannot accept the information. She desperately avoids the information noise and not only her eyes but also her ears are stopped. We cannot see this but know that the vacuum cleaner is not silent, and its noise drowns the information and also drowns our struggles. The narrative depicts our natural desire to escape and hide from our problems. We cannot confidently say is the photograph’s exposition shows an absence of the will or the will to fight. The woman holds the vacuum cleaner, but what does she really do? Does she try to drag her hair off or to speed up the process of sucking? The photograph shows just a moment, and the meaning is left to the discretion of the viewers.
The next picture shows a part the painting Agosta, the Pigeon-Chested Man, and Rasha, the Black Dove made by Christian Schad in 1929. The picture shows only a man. Here, the struggle is rather clear; the man has a pigeon chest that is an inborn illness, deformity of the chest. His struggle cannot be solved or escaped, and, as the result, he is forced to live with his disease and have a battle with society, as his ugliness is very likely to be not acceptable by average people. Schad shows the naked body of a pigeon-chested man to the world. It is not just a struggle; it is a challenge. The man looks straight to the eyes of the viewer. His glance is tired but calm. He does not really looks like a person who is afraid of being judged for showing his outward imperfection. At first, his body may seem damned, but later it turns to be a message. “Accept me the way I am.” Can the beauty exist in the imperfection? Or does it come from the inner strength? Is this man damned or firm? His glance does not really answers this question. And again, the viewers find the final meaning through the lens of their inwardness.
The final image shows a piece of art that belongs to Berlinde De Bruyckere. It is an apotheosis of the article and human struggles. The sculpture reminds a deformed human body hanged on the wall. It refers to the restless struggling and suffering that makes a human being closer to death. The first thing that comes to mind is the parallel between the pictured sculpture and Jesus Christ on the stake. In this image, however, the arms are not outspread and the face is hidden, suggesting a less prophetic story. The sculpture is more like a suicide through the jump. The hidden face and the guessable location of hands make the one suggest that the human could not handle his struggles and sufferings and decided to end his life. Death has always been the easiest solution of the problems. We do not really know what makes the person to commit the suicide, but his struggles took his life and ended.
In conclusion, it is important to note that the pictures have been placed in a logical order according to the stages of the cataclysm, which in this case is struggling. Moving through the circle, the tensions of the pictures develop and the air becomes more and more tightness. The circle has the following stages of struggling: The stages are as follows: visual challenge, inner suffering, an ability to overcome it and grow, blindness and denial, murder, burning, madness, attempt to escape, inability to escape, and commitment of a suicide. From a professional point of view, it is also important to mention that these images contain key elements; they are informative and content exactitude. By this it is meant that the images are more than mere visuals; they challenge the viewer to engage with critical thought and self-reflection. They awaken the imagination and the conscious. Returning to the question of truth, the images also demonstrate the inherent challenge. Not only do the images remind the spectator that there is often more than meets the eye, they also demonstrate the meaning one is able to instill into a picture. In challenging the viewer to question what each photograph offers, the only thing that becomes clear is that truth will remain uncertain.
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