Upon Further Inspection

Zoe Strauss 

WaWa Parking Lot (2008)

WaWa Parking Lot (2008)

This photo employs Zoe Strauss’ panache of obscurity to allow the image to appear to be more than what it truly is. By obscuring, the puddle’s edges, it takes the viewer longer to realize the image is a reflection. The viewer is lead to look down at the sky and to question all that is captured.The images that follow are composed in a way that briefly obscures elements of the photo. Whether it’s a tight crop, a shift in perspective or a complex composition all the images eventually reveal more information upon further investigation. 

Otto Umbehr (Umbo)

Ruth Spinne, 1927

Ruth Spinne, 1927One would think that this photo is merely a broken mirrored image of a young woman. The perspective appears to be straight forward. Her gaze is looking directly back at the lens which seems it could be set squarely in front of her. Eventually, the viewer is left to ask, if this is a mirrored image where is the camera? German Photographer, Otto Umbehr or Umbo, (1902–1980) uses careful composition, shifted perspective and cropping to create a slightly false description of what is actually presented in the frame.

Otto Umbehr (Umbo)

Mystery of the Street, 1928

Mysterious StreetA man whose back is parallel to the bottom frame sweeps clumps of dust upwardly mimicking the direction of the diagonal separator. The lighter right side, the sidewalk, is textured. A band of bumpy gravel travels along the right of the curbside from the bottom right of the image nearly up to the left corner where it meets a black triangle area. There is a stack of bricks interrupting it’s stretch. Two rows of smooth rectangular blocks of concrete form the upper right portion of the frame. The right corner of the image is bordered in darkness. There is a parent and child on the sidewalk walking upwards to the left. Umbo shot this from over head capturing the shadows that were casted. The shadows in this image provide more information than the actual figures themselves. The most we see of the sweeper is the top of his head, his light shirt, right leg, the broom he pushes and both his arms. His shadow reveals his second leg, his hat and the triangular formation his body and broom makes as he sweeps. The parent and child are also revealed through their shadows. From the top, their bodies pretty much blend into the sidewalk because of the similar tones. Nothing is truly distinguishable. Looking at the shadows, we see a young boy in shorts on the left holding hands with his father. The dad wears a light colored flat hat and carries a thin, rectangular object. It could be a briefcase. The child is also hold something in his hand. The object is small in comparison to his little body but it must be fairly big in order for it’s shadow to be seen from so far above.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Valencia, Spain, 1933

Bresson SpainHenri Cartier-Bresson steps inside a bullring in Spain and points his camera outwardly. At first glance, our mind sees two men the number 7 encircled and rectangular openings. But the essence of this photo is that even though elements are repeated they are actually broken and incomplete. Their existence is confirmed by the representation of the other. The left door is completed by the right side door which is spilt by being open. The numbered ring of colors starts on the left door and is barely legible. It is not until we look upon the right door that we concluded that the encircled number is 7. The opened door reveals a man in uniform who is turned away looking through dark cut out rectangles. The head and shoulders of another uniformed man is framed by a light rectangular cut-out. His body-less face completes and is completed by the faceless man in the background. The blown out lens of the guard’s glasses mimics the white circle around the painted 7 on the door.

Minor White

Pacific, 1948

Minor WhiteThis black and white photo of Minor White’s looks rather abstract. Most of the frame is overtaken by high-key, organic, wrinkly shapes that are interrupted by three flat black shapes. It could be ripped aluminum foil with big holes. It is the angry tide coming into the frame diagonally from the top right that reveals the image to be the ocean, the Pacific, the title suggests. The direction of the waves pushes the eye back down the frame to inform us that the somewhat circular white object at the top of the middle black shape is the reflection of the moon. Minor White tilted his lens down probably from high above a cliff to capture the ocean from a unique perspective.

Paul Strand

Cobweb in Rain, 1948

Strand Cobweb

Unfortunately, this is not the best reproduction of Paul Strand’s Cobweb in Rain.  What is seen here are wild flowers, strands of grass and a big clump of white dots, water drops suspended. The true beauty of the photo is revealed on the edges of the clump near the top of the frame. A dense cobweb cascades vertically, entangled with leaves.  The cobwebs lightly cover the center flower almost mimicking a small waterfall.

Roy DeCarava

Sun and Shade, 1952

DeCarava Sunshade

Roy DeCarava’s Sun and shade is a black and white image in which the majority of the frame is shade. A young boy is seen from above playing on the sunny portion of the frame. Upon close inspection, the boy holds something in each hand. In his left hand there is something circular, kind of wide, maybe a can or small box. He holds something in his right, maybe a stick to beat his makeshift drum. DeCarava catches the boy between beats as the thin beating instrument points down to the right of the boy towards a second boy, hidden in the shade. The boy in the shade has his arms outstretched and one leg behind him. He’s chasing the first boy.

Elliot Erwitt

Buzios, Brazil, 1990

Erwitt legs

At first one sees a bunch of legs. Two on the left belong to a horse. There are about 14 legs total. The legs in beach wear stand on asphalt not sand. There is a small boat in the background. The brown muscular legs of the horse blend in well with the lean human bodies surrounding them especially in comparison to the thick, chubby leg on the far right of the frame. Most of the feet and legs point right. The right knee of the man in the center directs the eye towards the full circular bum of a woman who is caught mid-step. She looks as if she were about to trot out of the image.

Todd Hido


Hido 3212b

3212b is a part of Todd Hido’s Landscape series which includes several images taken from inside of Hido’s car. On this wet snowy morning, Hido captures the sunrise over a sparsely, wooded area with what seems to be basketball hoops off in a distance. Water streaks down the car window creating a dream state out of this landscape. Because of Hido’s tight crop, eliminating any evidence of his car, the window frame or his side mirror -which can be seen in other images from the series-  the viewer is allowed to enjoy the dreamy, other worldliness of the image.

Abelardo Morell

View of Rome from the Spanish Academy, 2010

Morell Rome

Abelardo Morell is known for his work with life sized camera obscuras, often projecting mostly urban landscapes on to the walls of a room.  For this image, Morell used a tent. The rooftops and skyline of Rome project onto the brick ground of the tent. The spilled water from a hose interrupts the frame at top center and informs us that we are looking down not out.

Zoe Leonard

453 West 17th Street, 2012


Zoe Leonard also uses a room as a camera obscura, transforming it’s blank walls and floor into a distorted landscape. The windows and lines of a building are stretched and fold where the room’s floor and wall meet. The tree at the top center of the frame shows us the image is inverted. By following the point of the black triangle in the left corner across the room above the fold, an electric outlet can be seen breaking out of one of the building’s light blue windows.

Kimberly J. Wade



This image is covered with white O’s. It is a uniform cascade of dried rain droplets on a train car window. Underneath the dancing columns of white O’s, someone can be seen sitting in the car across the platform in the far left. There are people standing in the middle of the frame. A gray shape can faintly be seen, maybe as a messenger bag slung over the shoulder of the person in the blue coat. But it is a reflection of my gray scarf. And slightly above the gray scarf is my thumb layered over my fuchsia and black cell phone case.

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