Kakos' 4th Hour

Reactions and comments from my fourth hour Honors American Literature class.


My favorite place in the world to be is underwater. My second favorite place is the front of a classroom.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Lost in Themselves

The Tate Modern Museum (home of "The Oak Tree") recently exhibited the work of 1950s American Modern artist Philip Lorca diCorcia. Please read the excerpts below, browse the photographs on the website I've included, and respond to the questions that follow.

"For the Streetwork series, diCorcia developed a technique to photograph passers-by unawares. He set up an unobtrusive system of lights that could be activated by radio-signal. When a suitable subject walked past, diCorcia could take a candid snapshot whose elaborate lighting (in the artist’s words) adds ‘a cinematic gloss to a commonplace event’. The resulting photographs project a sense of the solitude and introspection within the bustle of the city.

"DiCorcia has commented:‘the street does not induce people to shed their self-awareness. They seem to withdraw into themselves. They become less aware of their surroundings, seemingly lost in themselves.’"

Explore the four photographs at: http://www.noorderlicht.com/eng/fest99/wonder/corcia/ph1.html

Why do you think diCorcia found these particular subjects "suitable" for his purpose? You can pick one or two, or discuss them as a single subject.

How can you relate this exhibit to the Hemingway's "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber?"


Blogger lindzd said...

DiCorcia's comment can realte to Hemingway's "The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber" mostly because of the 'lost in themselves' and 'less aware' parts. Macomber himself and his wife were more wrapped in themselves and their own gains into a seemingly happy excursion to Africa, in this way they are both quite lost in themselves, since the professinal hunter, Wilson sees that both have a bit of growing up to do, though poor Macomber in a bull hunt dies by his wife, the most remarkable thing to their awareness, in particular hers, was when the power of death overcame her husband and put her in grief and terror but Wilson would not stop about the subject until she said 'please', basically it was a lesson, a hard one to remember and should have practiced earlier.

3:57 PM  
Blogger SuzanneC said...

I think DiCorcia found the subjects suitable for his purpose because all of the people look very dull. However, there is more about them than the expressions they show. The Macomber's in Hemingway's story probably would have been similar to the people in the DiCorcia's pictures because we wouldn't have known anything about them. In Africa, the true character of the Macomber's was revealed. In the story, Francis Macomber found something that truly made him happy only to have his happiness taken away by his wife. DiCorcia's photographs make it look as if the subjects have yet to find some happiness in their lives.

7:06 PM  
Blogger collinm said...

In the photograph of the man under the wooden constuction tent he seems to be very weary, tired, and worn down within himself. I think the same thing happened to Macomber and his wife. They weren't aware of their surrounding and what they were capabel of. Macomber thought he fearless after the lion hunt and approached the buffaloes without fear. His wife also was drawn into herself after seeing her husband run away and act cowardly. She cared more of her self image and was willing to leave Macomber than to be seen with a coward. In the end they both led to their own demise.

7:34 PM  
Blogger JacobW said...

Alright this is going to be a little long: In my opinion, I think that diCocia found these subjects “suitable” because the outward appearance of those photographed hinted at the sentiments within. Often times when a person comes into contact with the vociferous bustle associated with city life, and is confronted with the intertwined lives of thousands of people all in the very same belittling experience, the result usually constitutes an overwhelming feeling of insignificance. Glimpsing at the lives of so many in such a narrow snap shot of time is like gazing up at the multitude of stars in the concrete blackness of the night. The subjects photographed, surrounded by the towering monuments of man’s combined potential cast in steal and glassy splendor, portray an image of humbleness which needs no system of lights or cameras to capture. Just as the upper classman can tell how little a freshman feels by the wide-eyed expression worn upon their fragile face, so to can the onlooker tell what inward feelings are being thought. However, in Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” a change comes over Francis that is quite the opposite. He becomes brash, manly and unafraid. All fear and meekness leaves him and he is left defenseless without brakes to slow his oncoming death. Perhaps it is better for the subject “to withdraw into themselves” than to leave no shield between them and the material ecstasy and agony of reality.

7:55 PM  
Blogger Matt Coming said...

DiCorcia uses the lifeless bleak faces of these people to display how the fast paced stresses and financial motivations of the city life take away from personality and character, instead of reaching out towards others we instead become consumed within ourselves almost lost within a fruitless stage of self discovery. This is also incorporated with in Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” where each character such as Macomber has their own initiave and rather than reaching out to others to foster or strengthen new bonds the characters instead become consumed in what has to be accomplished and act out brashly against those who try to stop or hinder these actions.

9:23 PM  
Blogger CaitlinZ said...

These people were suitable because it is puzzling how they can seemingly disregard their lively surroundings and become "lost in their themselves". In the pictures, it looks like there is a lot to observe and take in around the people themselves. These people's blank images do not match the atmosphere of their distracting surroundings.
In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber", Macomber's newfound excitement does not really match the atmosphere of brutal and graphic killing of animals. It seems peculiar that he would suddenly develop such an enthusiastic attitude towards something that he was so frightened and disgusted with days before.

9:43 PM  
Blogger Caitlino said...

The subjects of the pictures were real. They were everyday sights that were brought into a light of their own. The story brought real people into circumstances that are not normally experienced, and in turn they themselves changed. The photos show people guarding themselves from the outside world and in turn their appearances may differ from who they believe they are. The ideas brougth forth in the story and these pictures seems to find the faults with people and either accept or discard them. There is a rawness to both the story and the photos that at times can be hard to find in other aspects of life, and these pieces of media bring back the reality of the human spirit, be it a pleasant thing or not.

9:56 PM  
Blogger KerryL1005 said...

I think diCorcia used the objects that he did because they had a certain depth to them. The way each picture looks in some way shows depth to that person's character. Either the background, the facial expression or the body language shows that there is more to the picture than just a person walking down the street. This is parallel in some way to the modern art we looked at today in class- each piece of work seemed so simple yet had so much depth that most couldn't see. I think that the modern art artists and diCorcia had the same perspective on the artwork that they created.

"The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber" relates to these pictures for many reasons. The cowardice persona that Macomber exemplified made the rest of the characters in the story let loose and put down all of the shields that they once held up high. The terrified Macomber made every character shift into a mode of defense rather than worrying about what others thought. This related to the paintings because of the way each character that is described or photographed has an outside personality but on the inside, in reality, everyone is truly different.

9:59 PM  
Blogger Caylab said...

diCorcia chose these subjects simply to illustrate that beneath the city lights and booming buildings, there are people who feel very much left behind. While we can clump all the people, the characters together in a city, it becomes obvious by studying the individuals that this is not possible. Look, for example at the pictures. There's a red head, a man, chinese people...they are all very much different and much like what Kerry said "everyone is truly different" as we see illustrated in "The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber."

10:42 PM  
Blogger JocelynH said...

The subjects of diCorcia pictures’ almost seem like they are self-absorbed and all they are worried about is the next place they have to go or the next thing they have to do. In a way, they are almost in a state of mind where no one else is allowed in and diCorcia has caught people thinking about productive thoughts, or ideas that are totally useless. Francis Macomber seemed very egocentric and he was so worried about his status with his wife or the other people around him that he became a man in a sort of trance that had just one goal, and it was to hunt the lion or the buffalo. Overall, diCorcia had what he deserved was coming to him, and in the end, he should’ve focused his attention on something other than his reputation.

1:14 AM  
Blogger meganJ said...

When knowingly photographed,many people contort themselves to an image that they would like to be seen as. DiCorcia has perfected a way of photographing people in order to see beyond the dillusioned selves they tend present; thoroughly unaware that their picture is being taken, they have no chance to hide behind a mask. Yet at the same time these people have drawn into themselves - lost in their thoughts and lost in a city, full of a sea of faces.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah B said...

When I think of pictures I think of happy smiling faces. People showing what they want to be portrayed as. diCorcia wanted to capture how his subjects were actually portrayed and not necessarily how they wanted to be shown. I think this relates to Macomber because with his drinking, he is able to transform himself into someone who he is not. To some extent, he was able to change how people viewed him.

8:13 AM  
Blogger JeffN said...

Generally photographs are posed. They are not real life portrayals of the subjects but rather a superficial capturing of how the person wants others to view them. The way diCorcia candidly takes his photographs, they capture the essence of human life: showing the lights and darks, the shadows and highlights, the fuzzy and the clear, the realistic. When Francis was on the lion hunt, his life was the diCorcia pictures. He told the reader how he truly felt about the situation but put on a fake "mask" to hide his fears about the quest so that Wilson would not think of him as a coward. In essence, he hinted at the diCorica side of life but ultimately chose the posed photographs, which seems to be the choice made by most people in our society today.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Raychel H said...

It is hard to portray life as it really is. People are always, whether it be conscious or subsconcious, concerned about the way that other people veiw them. diCorcia managed to capture reality, the truth, in his pictures. By taking candid shots instead of posed pictures, the person beneath the skin was able to show through. This is the same way in Hemingway's story. It's hard to reveal the truth when its not what you want people to see you as.

9:27 AM  
Blogger willb said...

The people in the photos are totally consumed within themselves. People are only focused on themselves and their own goals just as Macomber only focuses on his own goals. Hemingway and DiCorcia do a great job of displaying the emotions and the guiding influences in human beings.

9:44 AM  
Blogger stacey said...

In the beginning of the story when Wilson was talking about whipping the boy, he was only conserned with himself. Wilson was still going to whip him eventhough it was against the law. Wilson was only coonserned with himself and not was right or just. This is similar to the photos because all of the people look so self-absorbed and determined. Each person looks as if no one is around them and they are the only ones that matter.

10:00 AM  
Blogger AleF said...

These people are withdrawn into themselves, just as each person in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" is completely involved in their own problems. The most prominent example of this self-involvement is Wilson, who dismisses Mrs. Macomber as annoying at best even though he is having an affair with her, instead thinking about his hunting and his business. This independence and withdrawal of all the characters is emphasized by the environment: the African savannah, one of the last outposts of true wilderness, with no people around for miles. Hemingway differs slightly from most authors in that he mostly reveals the true selves of his characters not through dialogue or interaction, but through their rejection of these and the activities and thoughts they pursue on their own.

10:21 AM  
Blogger nathank2 said...

In the photographs, the subjects seemed to be caught up in their own lives and had no idea what was going on around them. Francis behaved in much of the same way. He did not know how the lion felt, he did not even notice when a guide fell off the car. Francis was killed, but whether or not it was due to his self-absorbed nature, I am not sure.

10:21 AM  
Blogger jacksonb said...

The picture contains people that are self absorbed and unaware of their surroundings. When Francis gains his confidence, he becomes immersed in himself and is impressed with how courageous he is. He forgets about his dangerous surroundings, which leads to his death.

10:22 AM  
Blogger kennethf said...

In Hemingways naritive, there is a line describing the bulls as "stiff-necked, the heads not moving." Perhaps their inability to view their surroundings caused their death. The photographs show people immersed in their own lives, unaware of the world.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Robn said...

The portraits, both literary and photograph, seem to present a very frank view of their subjects. DiCorcia goes to great lengths to capture his subjects unaware, to at once highlight the flaws and perhaps mundane nature of the photograph, but at the same time elevate the everyday moment in art form. Similarly, Hemingway portrays Francis as cowardly and domineered by his wife, but at the same time depicts him sympathetically. In this sense, the pieces are very ambiguous, as modernist art itself is very ambiguous. One might believe it displays truly 3-dimensional subjects at the apex of creativity (where perhaps the biggest part of art itself is the mental aspect) where others might view it as mundane or done in a manner to mask a lack of talent. Perhaps we should perform an experiment: I challenge any photography student to turn those diCorcia photos into Mrs. Hitchens, and I will give them one dollar for each point she takes off for lighting.

7:47 PM  

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