Sunday, March 16, 2008

Walk Into Paradise Garden

When I was 18, I decided that I would become a photographer.
Things, life, intervened.
The year was 1966. I had only been a serious photographer for a little over three years. I was in the military living in Northern Virgina and had daily access to Washington D.C.. One trip into the Capitol I discovered a photo exhibit at the Smithsonian. It was the 'The Family of Man', an exhibition by Edward Steichen for the Museum of Modern Art in N.Y.C. on loan to Smithsonian. I was blown away. I went back several times and spent hours of awe and envy. That was the greatest photographic learning experience of my life.

Up to this point 90% of my own photography had been in black and white. My two favorite pictures were by Dorothea Lang. At the top of my list was her "Migrant Mother" and second was her 'White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco'.

After seeing this exhibition, in which both of those prints were superbly displayed, my favorite photograph changed. Lang's masterpieces dropped down to number 2 and number 3. The were replaced by a photograph by Eugene Smith: 'Walk Into Paradise Garden'.

Walk into Paradise Garden

Smith had been a photographer in WWII. I had seen his work and liked it. But I had never run across this picture. Smith was taking pictures of Marines on Okinawa when he was seriously wounded by mortar fire. It took two years of operations and pain before he could function as a photographer again. The story was he was in a hammock in his backyard working with his cameras when he saw this scene of his children. This was his first photograph published after his war experience.

It was like Smith had crawled into my soul. A child was being led by a child from the dark though a tunnel into the light. A child leading a child towards....home. Smith's own title says that he saw the mystical memory himself.

There are hundreds of photographs and photographers, black and white, color, abstract, you name it, that I love. This one has never been pushed from my first place.

Migrant Mother

White Angel Bread Line

So, what photograph has grabbed you or haunted your mind? Share with me.


Kirsten said...

Annie Liebowitz's photographs of Olympic athletes are some of my favourites, both as a group and individually. I also like Margaret Bourke-White's industrial images.

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

That's easy. The photo of the OKC firefighter carrying the body of a dead child the day the Murrah Building was blown up. All the blather about "faceless bureaucrats" and "pernicious government busybodies" was embodied by the corpse of some, most likely equally dead government employee's child, and the look of utter anguish on the face of the firefighter.

And, yes, I blame the Republicans for creating an environment where that kind of horror could occur, and people could excuse it because of the alleged excesses of partisan politics. That child's ghost should haunt Newt Gingrich for the rest of his life.

drlobojo said...

Kristen, when i get back to my home base next week I'll share the Lieovitz and Bourke-White photo's I love best.

GKS, the Baby Almon picture with the Firefighter is too too close to home for me to even consider. I worked with Aren, her mother for two years or more and watched as she was carried in the womb. Aren move to another job a few months before the bombing, but that did lessen the impact of what happened to Bailey.

There is a secret toll of death in the OKC bombing. There is the half dozen or so "unborn" children who were killed in their mother's wombs. There were those who died years afterwards, of complications from being in the bombing and there are those who cut short their own lives because they could not clean their minds of the horror.

Some day I may blog about it. Not today however.

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