The photograph I selected for this assignment was “Girl’s Night at the Animal House.” Although there is a person in the center of the photograph who is apparently enjoying herself, the thing that drew my attention most was the large head of the water buffalo in the upper right corner of the shot. In this black and white photograph, the background is mostly white, broken up with dark colored spots where the other animal heads are. The head of the water buffalo, however, is positioned very close to the camera and, since it is a large creature to begin with, is massive in relation to the people in the image. After studying the water buffalo head, perhaps the most unusual feature of the photograph, the eye is drawn to the person in the center of the photo, surrounded by the rest of the heads and apparently having a very good time with the other person in the photograph, appearing in a pith helmet at the left side of the photograph and tickling the figure in the center with some sort of animal tail. These people are obviously in a house owned by people who, for whatever reason, like taxidermy animals as part of their décor – there are six animal heads in the photograph, and what appears to be a warthog in the lower right corner, although everything but the back and the tail is off camera.
In terms of the type of staring this particular photograph invites, it obviously does begin with a baroque stare, since I had no idea what was going on the first time I glanced at this photograph. Upon some closer look, however, a little bit of meaning becomes obvious. Despite the very unusual situation presented in the photograph – being in a room surrounded by taxidermy animals – it is obvious that the figure in the center is enjoying herself and laughing, based on the way her mouth is open and her eyes are squinted, which gives the image a more festive scene. While the figure on the left side of the photograph has her back to the camera, making it difficult to read her facial expression, she also appears to be smiling, possibly due to the fact that she is teasing the other woman in the photograph, who would likely be a friend since she isn’t making any move to defend herself or stop the woman on the left. The fact that the woman on the left is wearing a pith helmet adds to the sense of festivity, since that isn’t a normal thing to wear.
This is definitely more of a productive type of stare once the initial shock of what’s going on has worn off. The scene is not framed by any sort of doorway, giving the viewer a sense that they are in the same room as the scene they are looking at. The camera is also placed at eye level and is looking straight at the subjects, rather than being placed above the subjects looking down on them. As such, the viewer is invited to essentially step into the scene as well and enjoy the novelty of being surrounded by large animal heads, which definitely gives me a feeling of being an insider. I feel almost as if I am in this scene and enjoying myself at this particular party or whatever this happens to be. The scene is natural, as well – the woman in the center appears to be showing her bra off, and the woman to the left is tickling her, which is an action that a friend would do to another friend in a comfortable situation. The natural feel of the photograph also creates a sense of empathy, although I can’t say I’ve ever been surrounded by animal heads in such a manner. However, the obvious laughter of this photograph suggests that the people there are having a very good time, which in turn makes me smile and remember the girl’s nights I’ve had with friends where we would do things that could be considered out of the ordinary to most people in normal situations.