Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Narrow Road

All PhotosEast 100th Street, New York (1966-1968). Bruce Davidson.

I'm working on a project. I have an idea. It's an idea to start, but it's also one of those that could go in 20 different directions. So, recently I've been researching what qualities some of my favorite and/or the most successful series possess; the first to pop at me is: specificity and focus.

Among others, I have found: there is August Sander with his famous "portrait survey" of Germans in the 1920s and 30s, Portrait of the Twentieth Century; there is Larry Fink's Social Graces, a pointed comparison between the lives of wealthy Manhattanites and those of rural Pennsylvanians; and then there is Bruce Davidson.

Davidson is perhaps one of the best examples of a photographer who practiced this specificity in his subject matter, most notably, in his collection entitled East 100th Street. In this series, Davidson focused on the action, the inhabitants, and the day-to-day of one Harlem city block for two whole years ('66-'68). His resulting collection garnered big attention in the photography world.

Here are some of my favorites from that body of work. They illustrate, with a talented eye like his, the dynamic range of images that can be captured in such a concentrated area. There is also an intimacy that comes with focus; as opposed to taking a range from 10 feet away, specificity requires a "zoom in"--a type of involvement one can only get with personal engagement.

All Photos: East 100th Street, New York (1966-1968). Bruce Davidson.

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