Thursday, February 2, 2017

STUDENT PICKS: The Candid Effect

Student Picks is a SCMA program in which Smith students organize their own one-day art show using our collection of works on paper. This month’s student curator and guest blogger Laura Grant '17 discusses her show "The Candid Effect: Street Photography of Women" which will be on view FRIDAY, February 3 from 12-4 PM in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. We hope to see you there!

How are women photographed in public spaces? This show examines the ways in which women are portrayed in street photography—a type of photography in which subjects are captured candidly participating in everyday activities. However, it is often difficult to determine the extent to which the photographs are actually candid. The photographs in this show demonstrate this ambiguity. 


Lisette Model. American, born Austria (1901 - 1983). Woman with Veil, San Francisco, 1949. Gelatin silver print. Purchased with the gift of past and present members of the Visiting Committee in memory of Charles Chetham.

In Lisette Model’s Woman with a Veil, a nicely dressed older woman sits on a bench. The close-up shot suggests that the woman was aware she was being photographed, but her turn of the head and disregard for the camera give the sense that it is a candid shot.


Garry Winogrand. American (1928 - 1984). Two women with a child at the entrance to Central Park from Women are Beautiful, ca. 1975 negative; 1981 print. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Ralph and Nancy Segall.

Other photographs also blur the line between chance encounter and posed scene. Garry Winogrand’s Two women with a child at the entrance to Central Park from his series Women are Beautiful is a much wider shot than Lisette Model’s photograph; it is possible the subjects were not aware Winogrand was taking a photograph focused on them.

Danny Lyon. American, born 1942. Port-au-Prince (woman carrying wood structure on shoulders, holding hand of another woman), 1983-1986 negative; 2007 print. Gelatin silver print. Gift of Nicole Moretti Ungar, class of 1982, and Jon Ungar.

The candid effect of street photography is even more apparent in Danny Lyon’s photograph Port-au-Prince where the subjects are seen from behind. It appears that Lyon captured this encounter without the subjects’ realization, and they do not seem posed.

Yet, the unposed quality of the photographs is not merely an innocent aesthetic choice. These photographs cause us to question whether the subjects knew their photograph was being taken and whether they wanted it to be taken and displayed.


Mikiko Hara. Japanese, born 1976. Still from the series These Are Days, 2009.  C-print. Purchased with the Carroll and Nolen Asian Art Acquisition Fund.

Mikiko Hara’s still from the series These Are Days is the only photograph in which the subject looks directly at the camera. Her expression is difficult to read. Is she unnerved, annoyed, or surprised? Nevertheless, she is the only subject to look back and show any ambivalence towards her role as a subject of a street photograph. 


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