Photos & Analysis
Like many of the images from Arthur Leipzig’s Growing Up in New York, this picture of a homeless man is a routine scene in the city. Rather than serving as an irregularity, this friendly stranger can be found in a similar position, day after day. Viewed straight on, this is an honest photograph taken around hip level. Additionally, I utilized a black and white aspect to mirror Leipzig’s style. The photograph may not be too complex, yet it is imbued with deep emotion.
One particular aspect I like about this photograph is the fact that rectangular and square shapes decorate it. The square sign and cube shaped crate are aesthetically pleasing, as are the rectangular bricks and the rectangular walls surrounding them. The homeless man engulfed in all of these rectangles and squares may have an apathetic expression; however, he is far from mundane. There is a certain power that lives with his struggle and his attempts to survive in the city.
Another key component of this image is the lighting. Although some light does penetrate the darkness, the man remains consumed by the shadows. In fact, not a single part of his body is illuminated by the light. While this detail may seem irrelevant, I believe it symbolizes that the homeless man is experiencing dark and destitute times that he cannot escape.
On the other hand, one segment of light leads up to the bowl of money. To me, this represents the good in the world, and the benevolence and charitable spirit of society. Although the man will not live a stable life by merely collecting spare change, he will be much better off with the generosity of those who pass by.
Furthermore, the shadows cast on the man, with only a sliver of light showing, indicates that this man is being left in the dark. There is still a glimmer of hope for him, but he lives a turbulent lifestyle in which he is often overlooked. Hoping to receive some spare change here and there, a less fortunate soul struggles to earn enough money for food each day. Overall, “Homeless” illustrates the daily habit of an impoverished man as he fights to survive on the streets of Ann Arbor.
In “Reflection is Key,” I used a more artistic method to capture theemotion of the subjects. Taking the shot with my camera on the keyboard, I was able to record this photograph from a very different angle than the rest of my images. Even though the focus of the picture is on the laptop, the subjects can clearly be seen on the dark screen.
Moreover, the keyboard and the laptop screen inform the viewer about what the subjects of the picture are probably doing. In this case, the girls appear to be listening to a lecture in class. Although you cannot see the girls’ bodies or much of their body language, the expressions appear to convey two friends, disinterested in their current situation and lecture.
While there was no manipulation of the picture, it still does not qualify as a totally honest picture, for the girls are not captured straight on. Also, their body shapes have been distorted as the mirror effect gives the impression that the girls are a lot smaller than they actually are. More than anything, the photograph shows an artistic style and carries an emotional essence, which is made relevant through the effects of the black and white color options.
What New York was to Arthur Leipzig, Ann Arbor is to me. “The city was (is) my home” (Leipzig). Having that personal connection to the setting in which I have been taking my pictures has made the experience a lot more meaningful to me. In addition, I have been able to learn more about my new home as a result of the process.
By taking photographs in a similar way to my photographer, I learned that capturing images at the right time, in the right place, and without staging the shot is very difficult. Not only did I feel uncomfortable trying to discretely snap pictures of unsuspecting people, but also I realized that people are constantly moving, so it was difficult to sometimes get the photo I desired. Even when I was satisfied with the photograph I recorded, I realized there were so many more opportunities left in the city that I should document.
In my own work, my Jewish background made me cognizant of both the struggle and the success omnipresent in the city. Albeit many destitute people can be found on the streets of Ann Arbor, an abundant amount of glowing, happy people can be seen too. The city is comprised of a wide variety of people that house a wide variety of emotions, and a sense of happiness and belonging tends to prevail. In reality, the city of Ann Arbor, from a Jewish perspective, shows the acceptance and belonging of a large spectrum of people.
Because I had very few limits when taking my own photographs, this process was very liberating for me. I could frame Ann Arbor in the way I wanted to by exercising the power of choice. In this way, I selected the images I wished to show and discarded the ones I did not. Just as liberating in this process was the fact that this was the first time I had ever gone out into a city with a specific purpose in taking pictures. Previously, I had had very little experience with cameras and was not comfortable taking snapshots of civilians.
After going through the process of taking my own pictures, I have become more appreciative of Arthur Leipzig and his photo book, Growing up in New York. I am now aware of the effort and time he must have put in, and I understand how difficult it is to arrange the photographs in a way that seems orderly and logical. Leipzig had claimed that for him, “New York, with its diverse cultures and varied topography, presented a new challenge every day” (Leipzig). I believe that Arthur Leipzig did indeed attack New York’s daily challenges as he worked to present the city in a way that allowed outsiders to feel as if they knew the city themselves.
Because Leipzig brought such emotion and variety to his photobook, he succeeded immensely. His passion for photography permeates his photographs, and his desire to portray New York City as a diverse city of prosperity and adversity is very clear. While his work does leave room for interpretation, there is no room for debate that Growing Up in New York is an absolute masterpiece.
The Streets of Ann Arbor
Fun and Games