January 20, 2005

McCurry Wuz Here

Steve McCurry made the Mona Lisa of photography. It may not be the greatest photo ever but for some reason it has caught the attention of the world. It is a striking portrait of an Afghan refugee made in the 80s. He has made many like it. His book of portraits is a treat to look through and as I make my pictures he isn't far from my consciousness. He's a master at making color images and he knows the value of the magic hours of the day. I've heard him speak about shooting just after dawn and before dusk while just chilling out when the sun is high and less flattering. It's good advice if you like taking pretty pictures.

I saw this image in Chiang Mai's night bazaar hanging as a street artist's sample work. He'd only colored the eyes a subtle green. It still works. I met a Thai woman who said that all the street artists draw her. SHe asked me, "what does this picture mean?" I simply laughed and answered with my first impression, "I don't know, maybe...nothing."

I wonder sometimes what makes an image great and at what point does simply being familiar with a work of art make it more appealing. Does celebrity apply to art? I think at times it does and that is a tad troubling.

It can be argued that celebrity saps resources from innovation and originality. It commodifies what had been genuine expression or talent and ultimately traps both celebrity and audience in a banal, time wasting hole. But that's a whole other discussion.

Take pictures.
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