Moment of Focus


Garda Taro Republican Militia Woman Training on Beach 1936

I am drawn to this image because of what the woman represents as a figure who is fighting for a larger cause both literally and figuratively by the very nature of her gender. She is almost the only thing in the image except for a few out of focus items in the foreground and background. The way she is silhouetted against the sky and photographed from a slightly lower level make her fell like a monument. Something that is meant to embody the essence of but also represents a larger ideal.

In finding images that relate to I decided to focus on different elements that are present in the original image, such as solitary powerful figures, intense focus, and the context of struggle.



Albrecht Durer Nemesis or The Large Fortune 1514


Said to be an allegorical image the figure represents good fortune indicated by the swollen belly. In her hands are a chalice and bridle, an interesting choice by the artist to represent control and generosity. Why did I choose this image? In a way it contrasts the photograph, with so much detail of and below the figure though they are lit and facing the same way. The brindle in her hand reminds me of the gun, meant to control something larger and more powerful than her it’s a sign of control.

It makes me wonder if the militia woman saw herself as a bringer of good fortune? A gun in hand her tool though meant for destruction something to bring this good fortune.


Edgar Degas Dancer in Front of a Window 1877

This pose called for a great deal of focus and skill as I’m sure she was required to hold it for hours while the artist painted the image. She looks off into the distance concentrating just as the militia woman does holding the gun focusing intently off frame. Though a painting the buildings in the background are blurred by the window pane, causing a type of shallow depth of field to draw the viewers focus to the center plane where the dancer is located just as it is in the original image. The almost monochromatic painting echoes the yellowing black and white image of the original photograph.


Egon Schiele Self Portrait with Lowered Head 1912

The paint strokes remind me of the texture of the road and clothes of the militia woman. There is a single figure taking up a large portion of the image, there is no sense of place and very limited context but present in his gaze is intenseness seen in his face shared by the woman in the photograph holding the gun. The artist held this position staring in a mirror concentrating for a long period of time to complete this piece, the same kind of concentration required by the soldier to make the shot.


Rene Magritte Death of a Mermaid 1934

Why would I choose this painting and how does it relate? The idea of gender roles in the original image is one of the main draws for me. The female soldier is a minority of the group, dressed in uniform not subjected to the male gaze and is the sole figure in the composition. In this painting Magritte is addressing the idea of the female form as an object. While the mermaid seen in history as a mystical enticing creature presented as beautiful and an object of desire, here Magritte has turned that concept on its head by reversing the top and bottom of the mermaid. In making the top half fish the figure becomes desexualized very much in the same way the soldier does in Taro’s image.


Dorothea Lange Migrant Mother 1936

We are not given context as to time or place from just viewing the image, it is only reveled by the title. The focus is on a singular female figure gazing into the distance taking up the majority of the frame with her figure. Her face indicates concern as she looks at something or maybe nothing out of the frame while holding a baby in her arms with care, here I draw a parallel with the gun that the militia woman holds in her hand. The children on both of her sides are so close to her that they become something she wears like the utility belt of the soldier or the way the gun becomes part of the woman’s shape.


David Siqueiros Echo of a Scream 1937

A surrealist painting meant to depict the horror and suffering of war. As the child cries out loud it sits in a heap of debris that is a mixture of destroyed metals. There is limited color throughout the image that is primarily gray but for a few bits of green and red from a distant tree and the clothing of the child. The artist provides a larger version of the head so the viewer must confront the pain in their face, there is little space to view around the figure and nowhere to rest without turning away. I chose this image because of its depiction of the horrors of war, while the original photograph takes the viewer out of the context of war in to a very short moment this painting shows the effects and suffering it will cause.


Lionel Wendt Male Nude Washing 1940

He crouches down and uses his hands to pour the water over his body. Washing off the work of the day from his body he is in a moment of calm and stillness an almost trance like state, the cool water providing temporarily relief from the heat on his almost naked body. As in Taro’s image the subject is the main content of the image again with little indication of context, whether time or place. The photographer is looking at his subject with longing and admiration. Allowing us to see his powerful back the kind of body that would only come from a job that demanded physical labor and would be typical to someone from that class.


Andrew Wyeth Christina’s World 1948

There are the obvious visual parallels between the images; a single woman in the image on the ground gazing into the distance and lit from the right side her clothing gives limited indications as to where or when this is. The connection I drew in this image was less visual and more conceptual. The subject of the painting Christina suffers from muscular dystrophy, her own personal enemy that she needs to battle everyday though she will never be able to win. The house in the distance is her goal, where she wants to go but has no aid to get there, no sign of another person or even a wheel chair to assist her. It will be a great challenge to get there but it is achievable though with great suffering. This ongoing struggle is where I find the connection between the two images. The militia woman also has her battle to fight her goal just in the near future, once the enemy is defeated her comrades and herself will have won and reached their goal but again with great suffering.


Nan Goldin Nan and Brian on the Bed 1983

We are given no sense of time or place but very much the mood of the moment. A unique triangle forms in the image propelled by the two on the bed and the image above her head. She gazes at him as he smokes her eyes fixated, focused on him, the warm light from the left of the frame touches his body lighting the half of his face we can see. There is clearly a relationship here and within there is a power dynamic present, the photographer indicating the male is in the more dominant while the woman looks on in longing.



Newsha Tavakolian Listen Series 2010

A female photojournalist from Iran documented six female singers in Iran where women performing live onstage or on television is prohibited. The woman in this image confronts the viewer in the same way she has to confront the challenges she faces on a daily basis. She stands grounded in the ocean an overwhelming force against which she stands no chance but remains none the less. In an oppressive society being a woman adds additional challenges to this persons life. The woman in this photograph is one of a few female pioneers in her culture, the way Taro’s female soldier was in hers.


Daniel Valentin Nadia Studying 2016

This is a visually uncomplicated portrait with little information but enough to communicate to the viewer the intention of the subject. The harsh light from behind the subject almost creates a silhouette while the light from her computer allows us to see her face. There is some sense of place, the books behind her give an idea as to who she is and what her goals might be. She is lost in her work, focused and oblivious to the outside world and can’t be bothered by distractions, similar to the female soldier in Taro’s photograph. In a way she is training like the soldier on the beach, studying and reading are her exercises that will improve her chances when it comes time to perform her tasks.

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