Prof K Pelka : Monday 6:00 - 9:20

Essay on Photographer

 Aaron Siskind

There’s many great Photographers out in the world, some that have many elements that showcase what they love in their own photos and how you know it’s their photos as well. When it comes to Aaron Siskind his photos are very different from the average landscape or self portrait photos that most photographers take because his style is more in the world of abstract art where he uses lots of Black and White to his advantage and close ups of different textures and sometimes people as well. It’s almost like a void of darkness and light mixed into one and we will explore it further as we look into his art and about him as well. 

Aaron Siskind, born in New York City in 1903 was a photographer that had a very keen eye in what he took in his photography. Aaron at first was a school English teacher after he graduated from the City College of New York in 1926, but from here he became interested in photography which would lead him down a path of becoming pretty well known in the photography world in 1903. Around 1933 he joined the Film and Photo league in New York which was a group of documentary photographers devoted to improving social conditions in contemporary society through their pictures. This is where some of his famous well known documentary photographs came from including those for The Harlem Document (1937-40), but eventually he fell out of the organization around 1941 to then go on and do new things in his photography work. This new work of his was assuming a new, more abstract focus which you see in his later works of showing textures and stuff that is not really recognizable to the human eye because it could be interpreted in many ways when looking at these textures and shapes and shadows playing around in his photos. So his early works were more documentary photos showing life in areas in New York like the Harlem Document which had many images of different things going on in Harlem. Then there were the Abstract photos which again show textures and many different things that are playing with almost imagination in a sense, even elimination of pictorial space and his concentration on the arrangement of objects within the picture plane was something significant in the Abstract photos. 

I chose Aaron Siskind as the photographer to write about because I really enjoy Abstract art and imagery especially with a camera and I feel that he really had that concentration that made him stand out between other photographers at that time. Abstract art or photography is really fun and interesting because you could look at it and someone else could get an idea that’s different from yours and it always makes a great conversation among others. I really think that Siskind made some really compelling stories with his Abstract photography and I for one enjoy the textures and other qualities that play out in those stories. For me they really make the image come to life and especially that it is in black and white I feel you get more quality out of his photos, even in his early documentary photos as well which you could really get the sense of story, I just think he makes some great photos that are very good conversation starters especially in the abstract world of art and photography. 

When we look at some of his art especially in this abstract work called Providence 33 (1989) we see this void of what looks like layers of light and dark playing together on a surface that kind of looks like paint on a wall, which I find very interesting and how you could interpret this as anything because it is abstract after all. I think what really strikes at me in this particular abstract photo is how there’s more blank space or black space at the bottom left as if the black or darkness of the picture is consuming the light, slowly making its way upward to the rest of the lighter portions mixed with some black at the top. I feel like I relate to this photo because I’m always feeling a bit mixed with my emotions and I feel that this photograph really shows something about being a introvert like myself and trying to figure me out as a person, to almost open up more to people around me i guess, but I think that’s the big portion that I myself relates to the most in this piece. The last piece of this image is how he uses compositional elements such as asymmetrical balance and point of view to capture this image. When looking at this image it’s kind of in the eye view or a minor low angle to show a little perspective of this piece to make it look big in some ways or to make it seem like a doorway of light and dark. The asymmetrical balance portion is playing a role as well because each corner is not the same in the photo as if the textures or the liquid black inc is moving throughout the picture, constantly changing shape in a way, which could also be repetition of forms as well. 

1 Comment

  1. Ken Pelka

    The interesting thing about abstract photos ( good ones) is their open to different interpretations which is caused by what the viewer brings to the image. I think your interpretation is valid. I see the black holding up a descending white figure that is in transition which is sort of what you are saying about introverted.
    Most photographers I know work stuff out in their photography
    Good analysis.

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