Sunday, March 26, 2006

Down a narrow corridor

At the New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art this Christmas, I saw one of favourite photographs, the above Cartier Bresson. I was immediately shocked at the power and the size, a mere 8' x10" (I assume there may be other editions), hanging in a narrow corridor between two large galleries. Almost a forgotten space. It has an extraordinary presence, combining the purity of an unstaged found image and the best traits of collage. The scale of the two men is really confusing. It seems impossible. The man with glasses is standing far forward, looking through a hole in the door, but the background differs from the rest. I guess the building stops abruptly and there's grass beyond. The circle of his lens and the circle on the door send the eye in reverse perspective, small to large. The rear man sends your eye back farther into the picture, adding the tension of an imminent bull. The centre of the dark background is a near perfect golden section proportion, as is the centre of the nearer man's face, vertically. The diagonal slats on the bottom front of the door send one into another perspectival quandary. It could so easily be five separate pieces of photograph stuck together. And then there's the use of graphics so common with collage: the painted number 7 in a circle, half of which is set forward, losing the continuous perimeter of the circle. It's brilliant, really.


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