A Soft Spot

/ Thursday, February 23, 2012 /
On Tuesday I visited Joel Sternfeld's exhibition in Amsterdam, called Color Photographs since 1970. Foam has over a hundred photos from ten different bodies of work on view, and I think they did a great job at showing Sternfeld's extensive and colorful career. I don't know why Sternfeld hasn't come to my attention before; with rosy cheeks I have to admit that I wasn't too familiar with his work. I'm happy I was able to experience it all by prints on a wall, instead of on a computer screen.
You'll want to spend some time alone with this work.

  A Man on the Banks of the Mississippi, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, August 1985 © Joel Sternfeld

Stranger Passing made me very happy, this photo in particular. It kept me lingering for a while; I got closer, looking at his expression while pondering his life. It's a photo where everything comes together, but it doesn't seem to fit quite right. The man reminds me of Twin Peaks; there is something off about him. I wonder what he and Sternfeld had been talking about before they took this picture. I wish I'd have been there for it.

What I love so much about this series is that it makes me very aware of the possibilities of everyday life. All of the people he photographed, they're people we could meet at any given moment. Be it in an unfamiliar town, or the corner of the street we've been passing for the last eight years. Everything we need for a great picture is within reach; still often I wish I would be in a place more lively, strange or beautiful than where I live. But I know that even though Williamsburg seemed lively, strange and beautiful for the first three months, that wore off too. Which means it's just a matter of opening your eyes and making contact with what's in front of you.

The two hours spend in the museum were incredibly inspiring and I walked away with a light step. Sometimes I need a wake up like this, a reminder of what photography means to me. A reminder of what it can do. Without a doubt, photography is limited in some ways. But the lonely interaction between the image and the viewer still exists. And that is ultimately what I want to achieve.


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