Ready to eat!

Click here to view it larger.

What it is:

Photo measuring 3.5 x 5 inches.

What I know about it:

Nothing!  Undated and unidentified.


Okay, I’m sorry.  I resisted posting this photo for a long time, but I finally couldn’t help it.  I love this photo!  Granted, it’s not flawless (I wish the woman were in sharper focus), and it’s not conventionally pretty, but I don’t care.  Let me explain a bit, if I can.  (This explanation may make sense, but if not, then just enjoy the photo for the jolly image it is.)  About ten years ago I stumbled across a book (that I stupidly didn’t buy before it went out of print) featuring the portrait work of two photographers from what is now Mali, and it exploded my notions of what makes a good photo by presenting images of clashing patterns and unconventional set-ups that I would normally have found ugly, but which had an undeniable power and beauty to me.  (The photographers were Seydou Keita and Malick Sidibe, and examples of what I’m talking about are here and here.)  Additionally, I was starting to be aware of the art world’s embrace of tabloid-style news and documentary photography, such as the work of Weegee, with its raw energy and unvarnished perspective.  That brings me to today’s photo.  It’s hardly some museum piece, and I’m probably giving it too much credit, but I feel it has a potent quality that I wouldn’t have appreciated before I grew to appreciate those other works.  The craziness of the contrasting lines and patterns (the hard horizontal lines of the blinds and table contrasting with the hard vertical lines of the candles, contrasting with the soft billow of the curtains; the clashing patterns of the wallpaper, the tablecloth, his shirt, the chair fabric, etc.) gives it a visual excitement that keeps my attention in constant motion even after my eyes have adjusted to the visual chaos, and the glare of the flash gives it a paparazzi feel that implies we are witnessing a special moment.  Above all, the warmth and cheer of the scene is infectious.

6 comments on “Ready to eat!”

  1. Visul chaos – I love the term! It pretty well describes many of my informal snapshots.

  2. Perfect description with your lead in…made me feel the same. Much like the work of an interior designer with patterns and colors. Mix them up a bit and the WOW factor stands out.

    Although there is chaos, there is no noise. What I mean by that is that there is no random forgotten item such as a magazine of the table or a purse. This was definitely staged for the picture. The table is completely clear of non-complimenting items and adds a moment of anticipation to the picture, too.

    • Thank you, Karen! I’m so glad you understood what I was trying to say. I suspect the end effect was largely accidental here, but it’s there nonetheless, at least for me. I think part of the issue here is that, assuming the photographer is the host, he/she would only be seeing certain elements like the people and the table setting. Elements that contribute to the overall effect of the photo, like the wallpaper and the chair upholstery, are things the photographer essentially no longer sees because they disappear from active consciousness through daily exposure. But those of us viewing this for the first time would view all the elements as equally new.

  3. From that artistic perspective I see all those aspects. Mostly, though, I see what were probably people like my grandparents who tried hard to make the house look nice with what they had. each of those fabrics were probably something important to them: draperies she mad,e textiles from travels or that were inherited. I like the pre-Ikea homey decor because it’s real.

    • Oh, yes indeed. I didn’t mean to suggest that this photo was set up in the same way as the Malian portraits, just that in a purely technical way they can both be appreciated with the same frame of mind. The non-technical aspects, the emotional resonance, though enhanced by the technical aspects, are a different matter. I wouldn’t love this photo so much if it didn’t have such personality.

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