So, I’m going to try my hand at applying some theories that we are learning in class to a work of photography. I’ll start by composing a more ‘superficial’ critique of the photograph and move into applying some theories of critique and art, especially realism to the artifact itself.

In this critique, I’ll be looking at three photographs by UK based photographer Rosie Hardy. I’ll start by noting that I’ve been following Rosie’s work for about 2-3 years now and her photographs have influence my own photography in a way. This previous fact may or may not be important, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

First, let’s look at a photograph which is untitled but which I’ll refer to as “The Cloud Photo” for future reference.

In first looking at this photograph it is fairly simple. There is one light used in the photograph coming in from high camera right. The subject is placed in the lower half of the center of the photograph sitting on a simple chair. The photograph is well composed and ‘correctly’ exposed with the subject catching most of the light. The background is simple and does not distract from the photograph itself. The photograph has strong emotions of depression and sadness which are very powerful. The subject’s clothing is simple and the pose is natural and emotive. The single cloud raining down on the subject, in what is clearly a ‘studio’ setting, is unnatural but believable in it’s phenomenological experience. Most critics looking at this photo would consider it outstanding, which is strengthened by the over 3,000 favorites and over 400 comments the photograph has received. While most photographers stray from having the subject in the middle, this photograph makes it work beautifully, in most part because of the cloud hanging above the subjects head.

Now, let’s look at the photograph through the lens of Realism. In looking at the photographs formal qualities we might come up with the following. The photograph is taken with a wide angle lens showing the subject in her entirety. The photograph also has a large depth of field (deep focus) such that everything in the photograph is in clear focus. The subject is also within the center of the frame which mimics natural sight. These three formal elements; wide angle, deep focus, and centered framing; closely mimic the ‘natural’ world and how a person might view it. However, this is where we might see the realism of the photograph fade into expressionism. The photograph is clearly staged on a set with man made objects; the cloud, chair, and backdrop. The lighting is a bit more realistic, but still clearly staged to highlight certain elements within the photograph.

With this very basic and rudimentary understanding of the Cloud Photography we can begin to see how this photograph has roots in both expressionism and realism. While many elements of the photograph point to a realistic view of the world (wide angle, deep focus, etc), the clear staging of the photograph (the clouds and digitally added rain) bring the photo into an expressionistic view of reality. Here the photography is clearly not attempting portray her reality as it had been merely recorded, but she is stylizing a reality in a way to express emotions and create a fantasy. However, the powerful emotive features of the photograph might also present reality to viewers in a way that provides a phenomenological experience.

Now, as if I haven’t babbled on enough in the above, let’s look at two other photographs from the same photographer to see if we can identify a particular style.

Growing Into Myself
growing into myself

Dream Room
dream room

With my exposure to the photographer, I can clearly see a photographic style. This photographer seems much more expressionistic than realistic in my viewing. Rosie clearly takes empirical reality and distorts it through many formal elements to expression her own vision of reality which usually expresses emotion. While I could name many of these formalistic elements that help to create the photographers style, I’m curious to what others in the class might see consistently throughout Rosie’s work.