United States   |  2022

Gold Winner

Streetcorner Stories: Signs of the Times

Photographer

George Phillips

Category

Black & White Photography - Portrait

Company

None

Submission Group

Amateur

In a letter to his father about his father's portrait, Richard Avedon said “I want your intensity to pass into me, go through the camera, and become a recognition to a stranger.” That is what I am trying to do in these portraits. Getting such images of the homeless is a scary thing, for many reasons. But, as Avedon says, “Being a photographer and playing with light means playing with fire. Neither the photographer nor the subject gets out of it unsinged.” Recognition by strangers of dirty people surrounded by heaps of garbage is not a likely thing, so these photographs were taken with them isolated against a blank background reminiscent of Avedon's famous portraits. I used available light and a simple portable studio of my own design that could be set up in ten minutes to photograph them where I found them. The purity of the studio becomes ironic. The black and white implies serious, not snapshot; timeless and monumental, not pretty. To capture images like these, there had to be a level of trust and intimacy between photographer and subject. No posing, just non-judgmental conversation. For the 'intensity of truth' to pass through the camera, the camera must disappear and a human connection made. Certainly the experience of photographing and talking with these people has left its mark on me. Large, high resolution exhibition prints of these photographs reveal eloquent details: scabs, a tear, bruised knuckles, drug-addled eyes or a cigarette box peeking out of a pocket that says only “Timeless.” The subjects' accompanying stories, told in their own words, resonate with the images and the photographer disappears. W. Eugene Smith said, "My photographs at best hold only a small strength, but through them I would suggest and criticize and illuminate and try to give compassionate understanding." That is my hope for this series.

Credits

0
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