A simple request to a photographer friend has led to a recent photograph of mine being given an incisive review; accompanied by a passionate essay on documentary photography. Tony Bridge is a Kiwi, based in the South Island of New Zealand.
Tony has offered two of his photographs for me to analyse. This is a rare treat.
By my own admission, I am not an experienced street or documentary photographer and instead of the expected landscape shot to critique, Bridge has supplied two documentary photographs. Additionally, they are not taken in the verdant rolling hills of Central Otago, but have been shot in the centre of my home town, Brisbane!
In the rare photograph showing the great documentary photographer Garry Winogrand taken by Jonathan Brand, there is a hint of the style that is replicated in Bridge’s photograph. With Winogrand still in the centre of the frame and surrounded by swinging arms and disembodied pedestrians, Bridge has a still billboard surrounded by disembodied pedestrians and a swinging arm. It is Bridge’s use of colour that brings a slightly more contemporary feel to the photograph as opposed to the monochrome of Winogrand and Brand. Whilst Winogrand does not always stay as the dispassionate observer (as he does in Los Angeles Airport, 1964), on this occasion Bridge also takes the distanced observer role.
It was Bridge’s second photograph that attracted me.
Firstly I recognised an iconic corner within the Brisbane city mall, and it was in monochrome.
Whilst the dominant figure has just caught the probing eye of Bridge’s camera, it is the striding gait of the legs of the other participants in this city tableau that works for me. There is a dynamic tension that runs through each and every set of legs recorded in the photograph. They are all walking with a purpose and the photographer is an irrelevance in his recording of the scene. Winogrand almost achieves the same in this illustration where, despite the piercing glare of the beggar and the disinterested nonchalance of the returned serviceman, the rest of the participants in this tableau are preoccupied with their own business.
In John F. Kennedy Space Center, Winogrand has captured that same dynamic tension of all the eyes focused towards the launch and the solitary figure facing in the opposite direction with strongly splayed legs mimicking the man to her right. Winogrand’s moment is almost decisive!
I must defer to Tony Bridge in his ability to document the human condition out on the street. It takes a rare skill to engage and confront strangers in the public domain. Probabily even more so in these politically correct times.
Mind you this was what I was expecting when we agreed to this little cross review challenge –