Seniors # 3 Journal--Every Picture Tells a Story
Rockin' Rod Stewart borrowed the old cliche that "every picture tells a story" for an uptempo rocker of a song (is there any other kind?) of the early 70s. Rolling Stones guitarist Ronnie Woods, formerly with Stewart's band called The Faces, plays a searing lead guitar in the song. Yes, I did see Rod Stewart and The Faces in concert at the defunct Spectrum in Philly.
Your assignment?Analyze a painting or photograph
I'm hoping that by analyzing a piece of visual art that you'll be able to focus even more on how a prose writer uses description. If you need some help, this 4-step process should help:
Step I: Find a painting or photograph that you enjoy and that begs for closer study.
Step II: Look at the painting/photograph and describe what you see objectively without editorial comments. Note figures, colors, objects, etc.
Step III: Begin to analyze the painting/photograph, with attention to lines (specifically, where is your eye drawn?), shapes, balance, emphasis, contrast, proportion, unity, harmony, colors, etc. Here are some basic links to web sites to help novices like us to know how to analyze a photograph or a painting. As someone who doesn't understanding your genre completely, you don't have to analyze EVERYTHING.Step IV: Now, based on WHAT you've seen, reflect on how the painting/photograph makes you feel and/or what story (or message) it tells. Look for symbols, especially, in doing this.
I suspect that many of us are rank amateurs here, so don't feel intimidated or fear that you'll be wrong in your analysis.
Here's a photograph by award-winning photographer Annie Liebowitz that I've chosen to analyze.
Pictured below are actress Gweneth Paltrow and her mother, actress Blythe Danner.
The photograph tells a very human and real story.
It was taken a short time after Paltrow's father and Danner's husband, Bruce Paltrow, passed away.
In the photo, Danner, in a mourning black turtleneck, has ironically assumed the role of her deceased spoused, that of the comforting father figure. Danner looks a trifle sad, but more brave. She peers directly into the camera lens. Nestled closely to her daughter, she provides physical and emotional support, embracing her around the waist, her left shoulder buttressing Paltrow's forlorn figure.
Paltrow, in a white dress that falls off her left shoulder, is Danner's little girl who submissively accepts her mother's warm embrace. Her eyes closed, she also looks sad, but peaceful. Note that Paltrow's hands are locked with her mothers. Paltrow's white fallen dress reinforces her need for comfort, to be clothed, warmed, healed, by her mother's touch.
This posed, staged, photograph, is a work of art. It was not snapped by some digital camera carrying fan and downloaded hastily on the internet. It begs for analysis, as it is more than just a "pretty picture."
Of course, so does Jamie Wyeth's painting Patriot's Barn, a print of which hangs in my family room. Headed north on DE 82, the barn can be found on the left hand side of the road about a half a mile before entering Centreville or about a mile after you pass the entrance to Winterthur.
Wyeth painted this soon after the tragedy of 9-11. I'm not entirely sure if the flag was ever really on the barn (it isn't on there now), or if Wyeth added the image for his painting.
Regardless, it is the flag that makes the barn, and the painting, so patriotic. It's emblazoned on the whitewashed barn, and its reflection (emphasizing and symbolizing both Wyeth and the barn painter's patriotism) is cast in the pond that lies at the base of the painting. The somewhat subdued blue sky symbolizes perhaps, the uneasy atmosphere that enveloped our world after the bombings. The red and blue colors of the flag, and the green of the rolling landscape are more alive. Alive with hope and patriotism, because of the patriot painters--the owner of the land and Wyeth. Their shared message is as loud and clear as the sight of the star spangled banner (and that the national anthem that it inspired) that flew over Ft. McHenry during the bombing of Baltimore during the War of 1812. American patriotism cannot be defeated.
To me, this painting is a patriotic equivalent to the Marines who raised Old Glory after the Battle of Iwa Jima during WW II (see link to this famous Life magazine photograph). I especially enjoy this painting because the barn sits about five miles from where I live, and when I pass it, I think of Wyeth's painting.
Here are some other examples of photos and paintings (that you may write about): (in order,Nighthawks, Edward Hopper; Willie Nelson, Annie Liebowitz; Elvis Presley's Phonograph; Annie Liebowitz; The Singing Butler, Jack Vettriano.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: AS SOON AS YOU BEGIN WORK IN A WORD DOCUMENT, SAVE IT AND NAME IT, IN CASE YOUR WORD CRASHES. IF THE DOCUMENT IS NAMED, IT CAN USUALLY BE RETRIEVED.
Please print me a copy of your photograph or painting to include with your written analysis when you turn in your journal at the end of the quarter.