The first photographs I saw were black and white and depicted scenes presumably taken at night. These were photos taken by Louis Faurer, and though objectively I knew him to be a master photographer, these first few pictures inspired nothing for me. Likewise, when I gave a cursory appraisal of Alec Soth’s smaller collection of photographs, I did not understand what I was supposed to be seeing. It wasn’t until my second round around that I became interested.
The first photograph to catch my attention was one of black cars parked in “Garage, Park Avenue, New York” by Faurer. The light was not the subject of the picture, no. Its reflection was. The black cars blended almost seamlessly with the dark background; only the hint of a column on the top right hinted at the setting. Though the photographer was shooting cars, what showed through in the photo was the reflection of the light on their hoods, windows. It created fluid shapes and outlined the cars where the photographer had sought to hide them. The isolated lamp on the top left corner somehow fit with the scene though I could not tell you why. This was a photo of high contrasts, and to the contrast I was drawn.
The second photograph was also by Faurer and was the one of a man’s silhouette framing the man himself, also a silhouette, lounging against a window. The description was “Elevated subway on Third Avenue”. I have not the slightest clue how the photographer achieved this shot, nor the faintest idea what is going on. Did he shoot through a window? Is the silhouette a reflection of the man? I was simply drawn in by the repetition and the clever framing. The fact that the man within was also a silhouette delighted me. Through the overall fogginess of the area outside of the “silhouette frame” a single lamp clearly pierces through. Is this a theme? Does he love lamps? The longer I stare, the more confused I get.
The third photograph was by Soth and it is of the two towels in a bed. I picked it for its apparent simplicity among its peers. I see two towels, forming a heart where they join. But then, I also see swans, meeting together in affection. And finally, I see hands, fingers curled together to shape the heart. All three concepts are love-themed. Was it influenced perhaps, by the warm colors in the background? By the orange walls with the dark-reddish brown duvet peppered with flowers in various color? Soft-light illuminates the towels and touches the wall behind, leaving the head and foot of the bed in gentle darkness. Here again is contrast between the flower pattern and the plainness of the towels, between the dark colors and the white. But the scene is still soft, and the shadows are blending.