Allegories of Two

Zoe Strauss’s “Two Women” is the inspiration for this curation. It is a study of the relationships and narratives that can be created when there are specifically two people in a photograph. The pair can be viewed as the only subjects or the photographer can be introduced as a third member. Interrelationships, stories, and visual similarities were considered to create this collection of imagery.Zoe Strauss-Two-Women-Camden-NJ-2006

Zoe Strauss-“Two Women, Camden NJ, 2006”

What really holds attention to the image besides the stimulating composition, are the relationships and stories that the viewer can create between the two people. Are they mother and daughter? Friends? Relatives? No matter what choice is made by the viewer, (whether or not they create a narrative) a relationship has been created between the two.Joel Peter Witkin-Siamese Twins

Joel Peter Witkin-“Siamese Twins”

This image displays the traditional roles of sisterhood with a twist. Witkin creates something seen as strange or out of the ordinary and makes it innocent. The viewer is reminded of the normally invisible bond of sisterhood. The darkness and rough feel of the emulsion on the print reminds us that the facets of sisterhood are not all positive, especially when you’re conjoined. Their arms and heads create a literal and metaphorical link to each other for the entirety of their lives. This link is both beautiful, and inhibiting.

Edward Steichen-Self Portrait with Sister, Milwaukee 1900

Edward Steichen-“Self Portrait with Sister, Milwaukee, 1900”

Piercing eyes. That is what draws a viewer into this image. The thick granule texture holds the hardness of the image. The softness of the siblings’ rounded features creates an engaging comparison to the harshness of the grain. The gentle negative space, creates shapes from the sides of their faces.  The viewer’s disposition is at peace while still being charged by Steichen and his sister’s gaze. Judging from this image, I would conclude that Steichen and his sister had an intense, but gentle familial relationship, and it is interesting to imagine the opposing discussions they might have had.

Robert Doisneau-My First Teacher

Robert Doisneau-“My First Teacher 1935”

Like many of Doisneau’s photographs, this image is humorous. It reminds me of how we all get tired of being taught and gently rest our faces on the most readily available surface. The comparison of the girls clean cheek against the uncomfortable, dirty wall demonstrates her apathy not only for the lesson, but for the location in general. The older girl hasn’t noticed the little one’s lack of attention, and the “lesson” continues. There is an compelling split that happens between their varied intentions. Upon second investigation, there appears to be some sort of etching in the wall above the small child. Was it created by them, or was it created prior to their arrival? Either way, it reflects the “teaching” child and becomes a third character to be pondered.

Weegee-Mother and Child in Harlem 1939

Weegee-“Mother and Child in Harlem 1939”

The startling nature of the lighting in comparison to the unwavering expression in this image are integral to the success of this photograph. The flash has startled, but the mother is aware of Weegee’s presence: he becomes the third subject. Not all photographs of two people, address two people. Her son is startled as his late night snack is interrupted. Weegee’s camera gaze connects with the mother’s in a startlingly gentle way. The broken glass attempts to separate their worlds, but fails due to the broken shards that create a kind of vortex that pulls us into the mother’s face. The dichotomy of dialogue that could have occurred, and what is occurring in the photograph creates a narrative for the viewer of the relationship of Weegee and the mother.

Man Ray- Le Baiser 1935

Man Ray-“Le Baiser 1935”

The crop of this image is of the utmost importance. There are several versions of this image, but I find this particular image to be the most revealing in terms of the relationship between these individuals and Man Ray himself. They are forced into what is considered a romantic position, stiffly holding their chins together, having their lips hover between each other. Their gazes are cold, forced, and indifferent to what is happening. Is Man Ray more interested in the emotional implications of this composition, or more intrigued by the shapes he can create using crops and varying degrees of contrast and negation in his other examples. Man Ray has several images of women together in intimate situations, how many of the instances are actually desired by the two people?

Julia Margaret Cameron-The Kiss of Peace 1870

Julia Margaret Cameron-“The Kiss of Peace 1870”

The grandeur of pictorialism draws in the viewer because of its sheer beauty. The posed embrace the two women were asked to hold as Cameron made the exposure can be compared to Man Ray’s image in a much more innocent way. What kind of relationship is created while in the silence of a long exposure? What runs through their minds, what thoughts do they share?… Is Cameron silent as well? What kind of thoughts are coming full circle? Although this is called “The Kiss of Peace” this image is more thought provoking then peaceful.  The steadfastness of the woman’s face against the shadowed girl’s face creates a tense energy. The Da Vinci-like eye bring up a whole plethora of conspiracy theories from his legacy that makes me think there is more to this image then what is on the surface. Cameron worked with many intellectuals, some even using her photographs as illustrations for their publications.  This is what leads me to believe there was more to her intentions then simply making a pretty picture.

Diane Arbus-Identical Twins, Roselle NJ, 1967

Diane Arbus-“Identical Twins, Roselle NJ, 1967”

Arbus’s image of the New Jersey Twins was the first image that came to mind after looking at Zoe Strauss’s “Two Women”. Not only because both images were made in the same state, but because both artists work with impromptu portraiture. Arbus’s image is initially attractive because of the identical symmetry of the exposure and of the twins. Upon closer inspection, we see the difference in their gaze and expression. One has taken the role of “the photographed,” smiling and patiently waiting for the camera to click. The other has lost interest as we see her smile slowly droop into a straight line matched by the relaxing of her eyelids. The intriguing aspect of this image is the lack of handholding. Their hands touch but there is no attempt to clasp them. The desire to see this action comes from the repetition of seeing young siblings holding hands in family photos. It is  interesting to have that taken away and it create this bit of curiosity.

Rineke Dijkstra-Hilton Head, S.C. USA,  June 27, 1992

Rineke Dijkstra-“Hilton Head, S.C. USA,  June 27, 1992”

This image is a contemporary reversal comparison of Arbus’s “Identical Twins.” Dijkstra has made it her own. The symmetry is repeated as is the dark color hair.  The motion of the slight step forward is a dynamic shift compared to the relaxed pose of the stationary boy. Much like Arbus’s image, there is not as much emotion in their addressing of the photographer. Dijkstra herself does not become part of the investigation into the narrative of image. The viewer is on the beach observing the similarities of the two boys. Are they brothers? It is an interesting phenomenon to witness in person and photographically.

Doug Dubois- All the Days and Nights

Doug DuBois-“All the Days and Nights”

All the Days and Nights is a personal depiction of DuBois’ family deterioration. This publication has just the right amount of information given and withheld. This image is a clear moment of distance between DuBois’s mother and father. They are together at the dinner table, but they are not present to one another. The lite candles suggests an attempt at recreating what was once between them. Lost in their own thought, the viewer can trace the emptiness between the two of them making the inference that they are aware of what has become of their marriage.

Alec Soth-Niagara

Alec Soth-“Niagra”

Niagara is a photography book that narrates the volatility and fragile nature of romantic relationships.  This image is a depiction of the comfortable stage; That moment when you and your lover become as one being. Soth becomes a witness to their bond, and confirms to the viewer that they are indeed in love. This photographic matrimony of individuals raises questions surrounding matrimony vs. simple existence as a couple. Why do we need official representation of the romantic relationship?

Mother DaughterMarisa Sottos- “Mother Daughter”

This is my attempt of recreating Zoe Strauss’s “Two Women.”  The consensus between me and my classmates has been that the women in Strauss’s photograph are a mother and daughter. I wanted to create an image that had a similar feeling of apathy, while the viewer was still able to make the familial connection between my mother and I.  I have taken out room for more questioning since we are clearly seated in a home with artificial lighting. It is interesting to compare to Strauss’s photograph. Our lighting and environment are exact opposites. My photograph also has clear cuts and breaks into many of the visual circles that can be created by the viewer. The seams of the mirror behind my mother and I create a disruption in the relaxation of our poses. The mirror behind us creates a reflection of our backs which splits the viewer’s consideration of the individuals. Our bright, matching floral patterns (which we both happened to wear that day by coincidence) lend to the idea of how similar our personalities are, while the division of eye level, and the curvature of the chair separates us physically and mentally. A story between my mother and I can be created by what I have given the viewer, and by what I have withheld.


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