I chose to analyze the photograph: “I Guess I Knocked Him Looney.”  When I first visited the “Real Life” photograph exhibit, I found that I was most drawn to the pictures of the photographer’s father. In each picture with the father, he is the element that draws you in.  In “I Guess I Knocked Him Looney,” the father’s eyelids appear to be closed, although it’s possible that his droopy eyelids are creating that illusion.  His mouth is stretched into something between a smile and a frown, making it difficult to read his true emotion.  His hands (particularly his left hand) appears bony and contorted and while the image of him holding a fork in one hand and a flyswatter in the other is extremely odd, it also creates a bit of symmetry in the photograph that makes it easier and more compelling to look at.

I think what instructs us viewers to look at this picture is not only the father but the mess surrounding him.  Although messes, by their very nature, seem to represent chaos and disorder, there’s some sort of organization in this photograph that draws your eyes around the picture.  The first place my eyes are drawn is the center, where the glass of milk sits on a box next to a stool holding an empty plate of food.  From that spot, my eyes travel counter-clockwise, passing over the pile of clothes on the floor, the stool to the right with junk piled on it and the Ionic Pro machine that I assume is meant to clean the air, which is ironic considering the mess in the room.  The Ionic Pro machine draws my eyes upwards to the mantelpiece, where dozens of trinkets are lined up side by side.  My eyes continue to the left where we see a mess of books and movies.  There’s no apparent symmetry or organization to this picture, but since everything in it is messy, the consistency of the chaos makes it easier to look at, as well as more fascinating.

It’s difficult to decide whether or not the photograph invites empathy.  Looking at these photos objectively, ignoring all information that I know about the photographer and the background of the father, I look at the picture and question why the father would allow his house to be so messy.  As a result, it makes me feel as if the photograph invites “domination staring.”  We look at the mess and don’t necessarily empathize with the father but instead think, “Wow, this guy really let his house get messy.. he must be unclean.”  Of course, when we learn that the man is a hoarder, it helps us look at the picture more productively instead of looking with a judgmental eye.

 

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