CUNY Macaulay Honors College at Baruch College/Professor Bernstein
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Category — PD’Antonio

Who He Was: A Choice (Photographic Addendum)

The following photos are provided as supplements to the original essay & audio found here.


December 18, 2010   1 Comment

Sara Krulwich: There are professionals for a reason…

It’s not too often that I have the chance to hear a photographer speak, so when Sara Krulwich visited our class, I must say that I was particularly interested in listening to her describe her experience photographing relatively high profile events. At mere glance, what her job entails seems pretty simple: photograph what’s going on. However, accomplishing such a goal (especially during live events) couldn’t possibly be as easy as one might think, and with her visit, Krulwich confirmed just that.

Take sports, a very large component of Krulwich’s early professional photography days; most would venture to say that shooting a sporting event wouldn’t be that difficult, yet after considering the importance of the millisecond, one would realize that getting the perfect shot isn’t so easy. And Ms. Krulwich wasn’t particularly afraid to admit that she struggled in the beginning to get it right. Citing missed boxing punches and missed swings in baseball, she didn’t hide from her mistakes, rather she worked and improved them ultimately working in some of the most high profile sporting events in the world.

Everyone thinks that they can take the ideal shot, in reality though, most cannot get one right let alone hundreds or thousands during a particular event. They are called professional photographers for a reason, and it is for that same reason that none of Joe Schmo’s photos are printed in the NY Times. While others may take different thoughts away from her presentation, Sara Krulwich’s talk eventually taught me one thing: I’d much rather be watching and enjoying the game/play/event, than photographing every other second of it.

December 13, 2010   No Comments

Museum of Modern ‘Art’

It’s ironic to consider that while I admittedly possess little artistic ability, I have a very critical eye for what I consider art to be. While some may label this knack as hypocritical, I consider it to be an inner voice a reason. Call me old fashioned, but in my mind the best art is that which possesses an identifiable subject, like the statue of David, or any other of Michelangelo’s works. You can only imagine then how I must have felt surrounded by various Jackson Pollacks and other abstract works at the Museum of Modern Art last week.

Before proceeding any further, I think it is important to point out that I have but one minor problem with the (no doubt) effort-filled, time consuming works that were on display: they aren’t art. (Of course, such is just my opinion and it’s impossible for me to prove the validity of such a claim, but I will make it anyway.) Perhaps my opinion has something to do with my long held belief that if I or my little eight-year old brother could produce a piece of equal or greater value then it ought to be classified not as art, but ‘a piece of work;’ it surely took a great deal of time and effort to produce many of the exhibited pieces and I believe that the phrase, “piece of work” (not ‘piece of art’), best captures the intentions of the artist whose work it is, and at the same time leaves a certain reverence for the successes of the artists in the past.

The first ‘piece of work’ that I came across was the two-fans exhibit at the base of the stairwell leading to floor number two. The piece, which featured constantly moving circular strips of material between two fans was certainly an attention-grabber. Was it creative? Yes. Did it pass the MoMLB (me or my little brother) test? No; and it certainly wouldn’t be the last piece to earn that distinction. Perhaps though more than any other section in the museum, it was the Barnett Newman display that I will remember the most. Newman, it appeared enjoyed very simplistic pieces, often only one or two colors were used along with his ‘trademark’ vertical line (how original). The room may as well have contained one painting as they seemingly all were reworks of the same concept. Worse than that though was the slovenly painted inch and a half wide by nine feet high piece of canvas that hung in the far right corner of the room. If that was art, then the molding in my house just needs to be turned upright, and I would have 4 Newman-esque works in each room of my house. Newman’s work though wouldn’t be the last that forced me to question my traditional artistic viewpoint, as nearly everything else that I saw made me ask myself the question, ‘Is this art, or not?’

As I left the museum on Thursday, if nothing else I learned that there are plenty of ways to look at any particular piece of work. Am I really as intolerant toward new forms of ‘art’ as the better half of my paper suggests? No, I am though very leery on those who suggest that anything can be art; ultimately it boils down to the one’s vantage point: art to you very well may not be art to me. Then again, it’s always good to expand one’s horizon, and the trip was no exception, I saw things I wouldn’t have ordinarily seen and am glad that I did.

December 9, 2010   No Comments

Cultural Encounter: This Time of Year

After going through my blog posts, it occurred to me that I am one cultural encounter short of the required number. Very easily I could draft up a summation of the semester, or describe my transition to the city; yet I would ultimately kick myself if I did not write just once on my favorite time of the year, Christmas. In the past, my ‘encounters’ have pondered serious questions and I had attempted to write them with the utmost eloquence and significance, what follows is quite different from what I have already written about, as I find it fitting to end the year on a lighter note. (If you so desire eloquence or gravitas, feel free to peruse my archives.)

In addition to the obvious religious importance, to me the Christmas season has come to typify all that is good in the world. The music, the giving, the lights, the atmosphere in the city, the smiles on people’s faces, the weather (yes, I said it), the happier attitudes, the decorations, the Santas on street corners, the trees, the wreaths, the candy canes, the stockings, the presents, the looks on people’s faces when they open the presents, the poems, the movies, ‘Yes, Virginia’ (my favorite!), the food, the family, the friends, the fireplace, you name it; I have come to love it all.

In fact, this past Saturday, I found myself risking both life and limb setting up lights on my roof (a la ‘Christmas Vacation’, best non-stop-action Christmas movie out there). Its funny to consider then that my favorite part of the season has nothing to do with decorations or gifts or songs, rather what I have come to love the most is that most everybody seems to be a little happier this time of the year, and if you come to know me, you will learn, there is nothing I enjoy more than seeing people happy.

That being said, there is one particular song that without fail signals to me that it is Christmas (it’s not “Last Christmas” by Wham!), the song happens to be from the Charlie Brown Christmas Special and I have attached it for your listening pleasure. If you have heard it before, you will instinctively recognize its Christmas-sy Goodness: Christmas Time Is Here . Enjoy.

December 7, 2010   No Comments

Who He Was: A Choice

Over the course of World War II, the United States’ Selective Service drafted and inducted over eleven million men into the various armed forces; my grandpa, Stephen J. Drag is not included in that figure and yet in 1944 he found himself in the deadliest battle of the war…by his own choosing. This short narrative, while structured around events of the war in reality has little to do with it; instead, this about a decision that was made, some unlikely circumstances, and a choice’s ultimate consequence. It is by mere coincidence that the end result takes us into war, though its importance cannot be overstated. As Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight Eisenhower once stated, one’s history is “never really written by chance but by choice;” with all luck, this will be an honest recount of a choice made a young man over sixty years ago.

Today, his decision can seem particularly befuddling, in recent memory, war is something that many run away from, not towards; it’s worth pointing out thought that the world has changed in more ways than one since then though, for better and for worse. Beside the point, the youngest son of Polish immigrants, Steve Drag grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn and was in the last graduating class of Alexander Hamilton High School in 1942. Just some three weeks before he was to turn eighteen, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor and in time for his birthday, the United States had commit to the largest war that the world had ever seen. Within his group of friends, Drag was one of the youngest, his two older brothers had both been drafted into the Air Force and most of his friends had been inducted as well. One can only imagine the anxiety that the draft lottery process created; yet my grandpa knew that his name would never be called no matter how many lotteries were held. He had not ‘lucked out’ with the lottery system and he didn’t know some loophole, rather upon examination by the draft board, he was classified as a ‘4-F,’ or thanks to his eyesight, ‘not acceptable for military service.’

Most people today would be relieved at hearing such news; things were different then though and to my grandpa, the classification was a disappointment. While on one hand it assured him of a (comparatively speaking) more comfortable job and left him in a Brooklyn with more young women than young men (an enviable situation); on the other, the classification still felt like a rejection, and not many can handle them too well. So, following high school, he left to work for a war goods contractor and he joined the National Guard. Now, the National Guard itself only offered training in preparation for a call out to war, but at least it was something, thought my grandpa. Yet, even that wasn’t enough and with war efforts heating up, in September of 1943, he submitted his name to the Army voluntarily.

Considering the enormity of the war, volunteers are people that you generally don’t turn down without good reason, and so my grandpa was accepted, his eyesight and all. Due to his classification however, he was told that he would never see any action, and only serve at posts within the United States, never mind Europe; okay he thought, at least I’m doing something. His first stop was a Camp Upton in Farmingdale, New York, not too far from his Brooklyn home. While there he was offered a chance to stay and overlook the kitchen operations. Kitchen duty though was not enough to entice my grandpa to stay and so he next headed out to Camp Grant in Illinois. After spending a good amount of time there, he was offered the choice to become either a dental or surgical technician; he chose the latter and was no sooner shipped off to Lawson General Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia for training. For someone not leaving the country, things sure seemed to be moving fast, and with good reason, shortly after America’s landing at Normandy, my grandpa found himself with countless others on a ship destined for England, he was off to war, 4-F and all.

Upon arrival and subsequent shuffle to France, he was told informed at some point that he was a ‘replacement troop.’ Yet, he was replacing no ordinary soldier, instead he had the distinction of being a combat medic, and the luxury of having to carry one less thing, a gun. And so, at some point in July of 1944, he was assigned to the ‘Anti Tank Company’ of the 120th Infantry Regiment of the 30th Infantry Division, with which he would spend the remainder of the war. The 30th had earned the nickname of ‘FDR’s SS,’ as it had twice decimated Hitler’s ‘elite’ SS troops, my grandpa unarmed for most of the campaign made his impact known in other ways; with a red cross affixed to his helmet and sleeve, instead of ammunition and firearms, he carried a bag full of “bandages…morphine, and some sulfanilamide powder.”

By December, his division had been rerouted from Germany back to Belgium as the Battle of the Bulge began. More than half a million American soldiers participated in the battle and while its significance within the war itself was immense, for the purpose of this narrative, no further detail is necessary. Instead more important to the story of my grandpa is that during the time of the battle, he and his company were stationed in Malmedy, a relatively small town in Belgium. They stayed there through Christmas, and while there the Air Force mistakenly proceeded to bomb the town on the 23rd, 24th, and 25th, when all the while it had been in American control. The Christmas of 1944 is one that has stuck with my grandpa ever since, at the time he was still only nineteen. Further research into released military documents reveals that on a bright and clear Christmas Eve day, at 2:30pm, Air Force B-52’s directly hit several companies specifically the Anti Tank Co. to which my grandpa was assigned. (In an army transcript from 12/24, one soldier signaled: “They have bombed us two or three times today. Isn’t there something you can do to stop them?,” the response to which stated: “Colonel — is doing everything he can.” Four minutes later, more bombs were dropped.) It’s amazing to consider that in a war that was as devastating as it was, soldiers and civilians alike were both killed and injured by mistake. For his immediate relief actions, my grandpa was awarded two bronze stars; his regiment was later on bestowed ‘Croix de Guerre’ medals from the French, though my grandpa seemingly never physically received his.

The Battle of the Bulge did not mark the end of his military action, as my grandpa was involved in several other campaigns throughout Europe until the war (at least on the European front) was won; yet for the sake of this short paper, I feel it is an apropos place to bring the story to an end. By the age of twenty, he had returned home having seen the horrors and atrocities that war could produce, however he also undoubtedly saw the positive effects that can still be seen today. Looking back today, it is quite clear that his initial choice to serve is one that he would have made again.

Author’s Note: I realize it is particularly difficult to do justice to my grandpa’s story in such a short amount of time; hundreds of thousands of pages have been written on the very same topic, having no intention to understate my grandpa’s experience, simply consider this as fleetingly brief excerpt of what actually occurred. Hopefully, it is one that you can appreciate -peter s dantonio


December 7, 2010   6 Comments

Cultural Encounters: The Suburbanite Wants 7th Avenue

Having not grown up in New York City, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am not too familiar with riding the city bus. Yesterday, I found myself with the need to, and to my shock, it was running well behind schedule. (Actually, I have found that all forms of public transportation in the city are late, it amazes me though that the Staten Island Ferry always leaves on time when I happen to be a minute or two behind.) Anyway, following a couple of stops in the Grand Central area, I found myself trekking out to the public library on 50th and 10th in search for a book that they had available. Never mind the fact that I had no idea where it was in the city that I was going, it was already past five o’clock and it was getting dark. By the time I had checked out my book, it might as well have been eleven o’clock (it wasn’t, it was only about a half past five, but it very well could have been, judging from the limited light).  As I waited at the bus stop, an ensemble of various characters emerged from who-knows-where, first a drunk from a nearby bar, and a woman waiting with me at the bus stop (she had situated herself in a corner and covered herself with her jacket, her presence was not comforting). Then out of nowhere appeared a rather odd man who, in his twenties, started questioning me about the M50 bus, where it went and how often it ran (I had no clue what I was saying). Then another shady male appeared out of nowhere at which point the ‘odd’ one cuts off his conversation with me, shakes hands with the ‘shady’ one and heads into a nearby building. I knew they were up to no good when an even shadier man left the building minutes later. Moments after that, a policewoman upon a horse came strolling down 50th street, figuring though that she had little interest in my lead, I kept it to myself. Then the bus arrived and I left what turned out to be the Hell’s Kitchen part of the city.

Afterward, upon reflecting on my experience that night with a reasonable mind, it hit me that in April I had been in Hell’s Kitchen, not too far from where I stood waiting for the bus, at an Italian restaurant. (Their pizza was excellent: very thin, with a focus on the sauce; I recommend the Margherita pie, though you may want to bring somebody else to foot the bill.) Ultimately my lessons from the experience are threefold: 1) It’s probably not a good idea to explore unknown parts of the city by oneself at night, 2) Don’t count on the bus to be on time (already knew, just reinforced), and 3) No matter where you are, a good pizza pie is always around the corner.

November 30, 2010   No Comments

Collage: Ballparks

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For my entire life, I have always been a baseball fan, yet what I have always enjoyed more than the game itself or the players on the field has been where the game is played: different ballparks. Naturally then, a collage project that could convey my liking for the stadiums would be in order.

The first decision that I made was that I wanted my project to be entirely digital; doing so I felt would be a significant aid in several respects the first of which being that it allowed for a multiplicity of design elements (sound, video, still photos, etc.). Yet for me, the ballparks themselves could not afford a simple passing glance as a mere frame in a movie, but rather they deserved something that could allow for a better appreciation of them by the viewer. And so, at that point I decided to break up my project into two parts, the latter of which would allow for a closer examination of the different playing fields throughout major league history. While it may sound at a first a bit disjointed, doing it in two parts allowed me to offer the viewer different perspectives on the same overall product, which ultimately (at least in my mind) bettered my final creation.

The next step was accomplishing said objective, and I believe that I was able to do so only with my choice of interactivity in the second part. As you will notice, the first part serves as a mere introduction and overview of what is to come; I accomplished this through the use of video, which hopefully enhances one’s enjoyment of the collage. (For those that might have missed it, the opening scenes of Ruth (3), Jeter (2), and Smith (1) are intended as a countdown, Ozzie Smith’s flip is too cool to leave out a baseball montage.) The second part, which opens only after seeing part one, is arguably the ‘true collage’ part. Scattered photos of all sizes, this part allows the user to click on any particular baseball team and be zoomed in on their current stadium (from multiple perspectives) as well as stadiums of their recent/not-so recent history. Unfortunately, the one thing that I seemingly forgot was to label the stadiums and so if time allows, I will try to produce a little guide to the collage in the coming days.

Making the collage itself was not all that difficult, in fact it was almost as simple as it can get. It came down to the programs that I decided to use and Microsoft’s ‘Deep Zoom Composer’ and their ‘Expression’ series were able to accomplish what I wanted to get done. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely helped that I had preexisting knowledge of the software but what I did anyone could easily do in the future. In the end, the multiple elements I believe were a good support for the collage, and because it was done digitally I believe I was able to offer something different than what one might ordinarily expect from a collage. Enjoy.

Forewarnings: There is some audio in part 1, and it may take some time to load and Pop-Up may be blocked; sorry!

Photos Thanks to PC-Ballparks, Video Property of MLB.

November 23, 2010   No Comments

The Scottsboro Boys

Over the years the issue of race has become one that has been best tiptoed around and when needed, swept under the rug. It’s a topic whose history is as unpleasant as any other possible conversation piece, with perhaps the exception of some heinous crime. It’s amazing then to consider that the newly opened Scottsboro Boys on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre attempts to tackle two birds with one stone as it recounts the alleged rapes and subsequent convictions of nine black teenage males on a train ride down to Memphis in search of work.

The fictional account would, as one might guess work best as a blockbuster Hollywood drama, a medium in which the emotions of all involved could be best captured; it is surprising however to consider that the harrowing tale was most recently adapted by writer David Thompson (‘Chicago’) as a musical in the form of a minstrel show, a traditionally offensive form of early American entertainment. Utilizing twelve main male actors, several of whom played multiple parts, the Susan Stroman (‘The Producers’) directed play relied entirely on the belief of the audience that the performance taking place onstage was in fact one that was taking place in the early half of the 20th century. Employing utilitarian procedures as one might expect from a ‘minstrel show,’ perhaps the greatest achievement of the night was the display of the set, which consisted of seemingly little more than ten or eleven metal chairs. Once paired with sounds from the crew, and arranged by the show’s cast, the chairs transformed from a train, to a jail cell, to a courtroom and any other setting needed for the plot in between. As simple as it may seem, it could not have been easy for Beowulf Boritt to put together conceptually let alone concretely as displayed on stage. The barebones set also allowed for no intermissions, and a full focus on the events unraveling onstage.

The production itself left little to be desired as far as acting and singing were concerned. Each and every actor played their particular parts to the extent at which the script could allow them. In a show in which there were twelve main characters on stage nearly the entire time, it would seem a difficult task to have to choose those whose performance exceeded the rest. It wasn’t. Joshua Henry’s portrayal of Haywood Patterson, the rising ‘leader’ of the nine, was by and large much more in tune with his character than any other actor playing one of the ‘Boys.’ Perhaps this is in part due to the fact that Henry was featured several times in multiple songs; regardless, his portrayal of the angst and anguish that his character faced should have been the consistent emotion throughout the entire play, certainly not the exception. It is unfortunate then to consider Colman Domingo and Forrest McClendon, the two actors that played Mr. Bones, and Mr. Tambo respectively.  Both played their parts superbly and were my two favorite actors in the play. Yet, it is their two roles, both essential to the minstrel theme that prevented the play from making any advances in emotional progress. They were both extremely comical, which in it of itself isn’t a bad thing, but when the seriousness of the storyline reserves little room for such humor, it’s easy to question the intended direction of the play.

If the play’s humor left any mixed feelings on the production, the nature of it being a musical only added to the confusion. The songs, while well performed seemed to come at points in the play in which the dialogue could no longer sustain its importance; considering the material that the collaborators had to work with, one would have hoped that it would have been the other way around: with the dialogue the focus, not the music.

Ultimately though, it comes back to the initial problem that the play’s genre presented. It certainly had its share of comedic moments, and well-done vocals, but what seemed to be lacking was the awareness of the gravity of the story that was being told. The writers though seemed to hit on one issue, if only circuitously, and that was poor treatment of the blacks both in and out of the minstrel shows, as evidenced by the repeated calls from the interlocutor to give “just one more cakewalk,” (a racially-charged dance) a request persistently denied. All in all, the show itself was enjoyable, but by the end, I could not help but notice an uncomfortable feeling in the pit in my stomach.

November 23, 2010   No Comments

Street Photography: The American Flag in NY

Note: Photo is incorrectly labeled NY Life Building, it is in fact the Met Life Tower, Sorry!

New York City is full of tall buildings, historic landmarks and generally well-known points of interest; it has everything one can think of, and then some. Yet amidst the hustle, and bustle, and grandness that Manhattan has to offer, certain things are often left ignored. These things, often trite or commonplace usually have no significance in being overlooked; it struck me however that one oft-unnoticed thing happens to be the Flag of the United States of America. Of all things, our country’s flag is probably the greatest symbol of unity of some 300-plus million Americans; it seems that at moments of hardship for our country, flags seem to pop up everywhere, at most other times though, their prevalence dwindles. Yet, their presence is undeniable, so for my street photography project, I set out to visit different points of Manhattan in search of the American flag.

In my twelve-photo set, the one shared theme throughout is not only the capturing of the American flag, but doing so within the larger scope of more recognizable places throughout the City. I tried to accomplish this (in some of the photos) by entirely shifting the focus off of the world renowned buildings onto the American flags seen in the photos. Part of the irony that hopefully my photos gave off was the fact that normally when one gazes at the Empire State Building, or the Radio City Music Hall, one’s attention is focused onto the building itself, however in my photographs, the center of attention is always on the American flag, contrary to how one may view the scene in real life.

The idea for the set came to me several weeks ago, and was solidified as I walked down the parade route of the Veterans Day Parade. However unnoticed the flags may be, one thing was obviously apparent: they happen to be everywhere in the city. Up and down the streets, lining parks, placed on the sides, tops and bases of buildings, the ‘Stars and Stripes’ can be seen flying in all their glory. For something so present in the city (and in many cases so large), it amazes me that so often one can pass them by without noticing our country’s most widely recognized symbol. Whatever the case, I understood that the flags were there and I set out to capture them in various scenes.

Upon deciding on the theme, the actual part of taking the pictures was pretty simple. It just so happens that at most points of national achievement or pride, or buildings of significance, the American flag is proudly flown. Prior to taking any photos (other than three test ones), I did some research online to find out what buildings offered the best angles with American flags in view, I compiled a list of about fifteen places that I thought offered the best possibilities for my set. Taking the pictures themselves turned out to be the easy part, as I soon realized though, several elements were working against me.

As is often the case in Manhattan, scaffolding caused more problems than one in my photographic endeavors. Its presence on desired buildings, such as the Chrysler Building forced me to reevaluate my options and ultimately find new angles to shoot with. While not terrible, many of the resultant shots were not the one’s originally intended. A major case in point was my experience in Rockefeller Center.  In preparing for their annual Christmas Tree, they had set up level upon level of scaffolding both around the tree and around the famous golden statue lining the ice rink. Certainly not anticipated, my plan had to be entirely redrawn, and instead I had to settle for a nice photo of 30 Rock. Apart from their unattractiveness, the temporary structures also were troublesome in that they blocked out shots from further away.

Yet, construction scheduling ultimately ended up being secondary to the main problem that was ‘wind conditions’. Nobody likes to look at a flag when it is simply wrapped around a pole, so in many scenarios I forced either to settle for lesser desired shots, or minutes of waiting for the wind to get it right. In the end, I hope that I got the majority of the photos ‘in action.’

After taking all of the photos, I made the decision to digitally edit several of them in ways that my camera could not originally accomplish. In doing so, I sought to bring the focus onto the flags, so in many instances it is the only clear thing in the photograph. That being said, one will notice that after zooming in on the photos to the umpteenth degree that I ultimately sacrificed the integrity of the photo for the image that I had created in my mind. If viewed though in the intended dimensions, one cannot notice this, and they can be appreciated as they are hoped to be.

In setting out to capture the American flag, I set out to encapsulate not only the ‘Stars and Stripes’ themselves but the values and significance that lies underneath. In many instances, the American flag is not the only symbol of our country, but instead is joined by the likes of the Empire State Building or Times Square. Hopefully, my collection can justly show both.  Enjoy.

November 16, 2010   1 Comment

ICP: Cuba in Revolution

Photography is a unique art in several respects. For one, it has the ability to capture a single moment in time unlike any other medium of fine art; a capability that comes especially handy in moments of historical importance. Thursday’s trip to the ‘International Center of Photography’ highlighted two uses of photography during moments of historical significance. In the lower of two exhibits at the Center was Cuba in Revolution, a gallery comprised of nearly thirty different photographers’ work chronicling Cuba from pre-Revolutionary (~1950s) to the death of Che Guevara.

One of the most unexpected political episodes of the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution showed the rest of the world the power that a faction of young Communist rebels could wield. So powerful in fact that the group, led by Fidel Castro overthrew then President Fulgencio Batista of Cuba on January 1st, 1959. If nothing else, the Revolution highlighted the willpower and strength of the young men in Cuba.

Regardless of the photographer, the location, or the date of the photograph, each framed print invariably focused on young male faces, more often then not holding some type of firearm. This particular ‘theme’ lasted throughout the gallery and could not have better captured the events that were taking place in Cuba at the time. The black and white prints, many of which were vintage from the 1960s, also were unique in that a good majority of them possessed a great deal of detail in the background of the photos. Certainly video could have captured the main focus of what was going on in each particular picture, but only a photograph could have assembled the amount of detail that each shot had, essentially freezing a moment in time. And perhaps that is my favorite part of photography, the photographer’s ability to save an instant never to happen again.

Raul Corrales’ ‘La Caballeria’

Several of the photos that were on display were simply astonishing to say the very least. The ‘feature’ photo of the exhibit was Raul Corrales’ La Caballeria, a shot of the mass of horse riding, flag-waving members of the rebel’s cavalry. The shot itself is special as well; as from left to right, perhaps by design, it fails to contain the (perceived) enormity of the number of ‘soldiers,’ another interesting aspect is the great contrast between the white horse leading out in front of primarily darker horses. In a black-and-white print, the contrast stood out even more so because of the large disparity in the colors. My particular favorite of the show happened to be Alberto Korda’s Quixote of the Lamp Post. The photograph gained my liking particularly for its simplicity. It does not use odd angling or false lighting or any other technique rather it relies solely on the photograph’s subject, which is of a man smoking while sitting high atop a lamppost, above seemingly thousands and thousands of people, listening to a speech given by Fidel Castro. The simplicity in Korda’s picture however is not the exception to the set though, but for the most part, the rule. Nearly, if not, all of the photographs on display were of historically significant people or events; that being said, it is likely that each and every one of them were shot in natural conditions, which very well could have been unfavorable towards the photographer. Understanding this only calls for a greater appreciation of the resulting products, which were and still are important in fully understanding the events that transpired in Cuba over the years of the Revolution.

Alberto Korda’s ‘Quixote on Lamppost’

One of the focuses of the exhibit was on Marxist revolutionary, Che Guevara. In many of the photos presented of him, Guevara displayed an almost absence of emotion, whether it be in his military garb in public, or ‘relaxing’ on his own, he consistently and notably expressed a face of indifference. In fact, he was so emotionless that had one not been informed that one wing of photos of him was of him dead; it would be difficult to tell the difference. Perhaps though the most notable of all photos at the exhibit was Alberto Korda’s “Guerrillero Heroico,” a stoic portrait of Guevara, which has famously come to represent ‘rebels’ worldwide. The photo, which has been called one of the greatest of all-time (by some) possesses little by way of artistic technique, rather it merely captures Guevara in a moment of time; therefore it is the subject of the photo which has become renowned as opposed to its technique.

In reality, that same principle held true for just about every other photo on presentation, the greatest photographs on display were not those that were shot with special lenses or those that utilized different techniques; instead they were those whose subject matter meant the most. Considering the purpose of the photos as being documentation of historical events, fortunately they are viewed more so for their subject value as opposed to their skill, which nevertheless was very good.

November 9, 2010   No Comments