Photos of “Dad”

Instead of focusing on one certain photo in this exhibit, I chose to stare at multiple photos. All of Melonie Bennett’s photos of her father showed me something very unique that isn’t understandable at first glance. I noticed that these photos shared different feelings and emotions, all having something to do with her father.

The photos that I looked at were:

“Dad, Midnight Snack” 2011

“I Knocked Him Looney” 2011

“Wyatt and Dad, Sword Fighting” 2011

“Dad, A Typical Dinner” 2010

“Dad, Post Operation” 2010

It is interesting to look at the years that this set of photos includes as, almost like a timeline, the feelings invoked change. We see her father transform from a messy, depressed state that we see in “Dad, A Typical Dinner” to a very happy, jovial feeling in “Wyatt and Dad, Sword Fighting”. In relation to what Garland-Thompson says about staring, how “a stare can yield its bearer myriad of responses, from curiosity to confusion, attraction, discomfort, even repulsion.” (7), I concluded that this set of photos is supposed to show the myriad of emotions that her father, a hoarder, feels. If not the feelings of the father, perhaps the perceptions of his daughter (Bennett) and what she feels about their relationship.

My favorite out of all of these photos is “Dad, A Midnight Snack” as it shows his compulsive feeling to collect everything; it shows his “hoarder-ness”. Although, it also shows a very relaxed face and seems very composed, something that is not evident in earlier photos that further show how he transforms or changes his state of being through the photos. If we stare, we notice that there are many objects in this photo, but we can also see that he is in the same room as he is in “I Knocked Him Looney”. The portrayal of the father in each of these photos is very different. In “Looney”, he is shaven, with a larger multitude of objects near his eating/sitting place. In “Midnight Snack”, we see him much more relaxed, and somewhat comical, with headphones, and a lot less objects interrupting the photo. I really like how even though the object of the photo (Dad) is the same person, the two photos really contrast. They are on opposite sides of the room, different sitting positions, and seem to be in completely different moods. I believe that Bennett captures her father and his feelings perfectly within the photos, making the set very intriguing.


Real Life Assignment: I Guess I Knocked Him Looney

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.


Real Life Assignment

There were several images that caught my eye throughout the gallery. I decided to analyze further the one titled “Robert Driving Scott’s Truck”. What we see in the image is what appears to be an adolescent boy (assumingly Robert) at the forefront of the photograph with a grin as wide as could be as he handles what appears to be the steering wheel of a truck. We know he is a young teenager because it looks like he has braces and we can all remember having braces and at roughly what age. Meanwhile a shirtless man (Scott) is sitting in the passenger seat staring down the road with a small smile on his face. He is sitting relaxed. The boy as a look of sheer shock and joy as he handles the wheel. Both characters are looking to the right of the pictures frame which causes the eye to move from left to right starting with the boys face. You then pick up on subtle contrast objects. I noticed the white key chain up against the dark color of the inside of the truck. For me rhe experience I had while viewing the photograph was being taken back to moments when your parents gave you some sort of freedom that you never expected. My parents never let me drive the car. My earliest experiences of driving were anything but joyful and I think that is what drew me to the photograph. It was an example of another style of parenting that I appreciated. I remember seeing a key chain just like that as a kid. The photograph suggests that we are observing a working class culture because the man has no shame in being shirtless. The angle of the shot being at eye level with the people in the picture and in their private space being a vehicle suggests we are inside their environment and we are not looking down on them.

Some of the things I wrote down while viewing the photograph is freedom, rule vbreaking, in the country, afternoon. We can tell the timing of the event because of the lighting outside and we can assume they are in the country because of all the trees outside. You can see in the face of the boy that he is so happy to be driving. He probably never expected he would be allowed to drive yet and thats why the words freedom and rule breaking came to mind. This brings us to the man in the other seat. He could e the boys father, brother, family friend uncle. Clearly he is very relaxed. One thing I noticed is the hair on his chest and the connotation that brings. Driving is seen as a very masculine thing and in my mind iit made the connection that the man recognizes the boy needs to get out on his own and experience life or “put some hair on his chest”. The event is not done in a forceful way. The picture has a very laid back adventerous feeling. Both boy and man look down the road of the future recognizing it will come sooner or later and they should embrace. The man has a calm to him that seems as though he is proud and ready to release control and let this boy take an important next step in life.

“Real Life” Assignment

The image that I have chosen for this assignment is “The Boys Experience Having Cleavage”.  In this photo, we see four young men sitting around the table, all of them not wearing shirts.  In the place of shirts, however, they are wearing bras.  On the table that all of the boys are clustered around is a deck of cards that are set up as if they are playing a game, as well as several sodas.  The idea of men sitting around a table playing cards and relaxing is a fairly common masculine stereotype, but the juxtaposition of these men wearing a product that is extremely feminine (the bras), creates a very unique scene for the viewer to gaze upon.

Three of the boys are examining their own chests while wearing the bras, almost as if to invite viewers to look at them, too.  The other boy is examining the chests of the others, as opposed to his own.  One male’s face is almost completely obscured, as if he is too preoccupied at ogling the strangeness his own chest to be able to interact with the other boys.  He is pushing his chest together, trying to fully examine his new cleavage.  The boy sitting next to him, who has a mullet, is also looking down and examining his chest.  This boy has his mouth agape, as if he can almost not fathom how strange it is to see other males wearing bras and to be wearing a bra himself.  One of the boys, however, is not preoccupied with looking at himself at all, but is completely focused on looking at the boy wearing the black bra and is pushing his chest together to create cleavage.  Perhaps the most interesting face in this photo, however, is the young boy who has his hand on his head and is holding his chest.  He is looking down at his own chest with a look of complete confusion on his face. The way that he is posed, however, with one arm up behind his head is seemingly feminine. This pose seems to make him very engrossed with examining his own body, and since he is so preoccupied with this examination, it also invites viewers to look at him.
By positioning the viewer almost as if they were sitting at the unoccupied end of the table, it invites the viewer to be “inside” the photo, and almost encourages the viewer to become a participant in the photo.  The idea behind the scene, also, with a variety of young men participating in a ridiculous act can also be relatable for men.  Women can also relate to this photo, because they too have experienced the strangeness of wearing a bra for the first time.  The positioning of the viewer as a participant in the photo, by keeping us at relatively the same eye-level as the subjects of the photo invites us to look at them just as they are doing, with productive staring in order to understand the scene that is unfolding directly in front of us.

Real Life Assignment

The image that caught my eye when we were in the gallery during class was Water Truck Removing Crowd 1AM In The Old Port 2006. In this image there is a truck driven by one man in uniform. The truck seems to look like a fire truck but it different because it has the water spraying out from the bottom. It is driving on a cobblestone street past a crowd of people gathered outside a bar. In the middle of the street there is a woman who is looks very intoxicated. She is wearing a skirt that reveals her underwear and a sweatshirt with heals and holding a designer purse. The way she is walking through the water reminds me of a child running though a sprinkler in the summer time without a care in the world. The crowd of people outside the bar are laughing at her and it makes the starer wonder what they are talking about, and if they came out to the bar with her or if they are strangers to her. From this image I get the sense that she is a naturally outgoing person and likes to be the center of attention. my eyes went in sort of a circle from her to the crowd to the truck and then focused back on her.

“Real Life” Assignment

The image I chose to analyze was Robert as a Cheerleader 1993. In this image we see a young boy dressed up as a woman. He has a very serious look on his face while wearing the feminine look as well. The background is his room, with posters and full body cut-outs of movies such as E.T hanging on the wall. His attire is more than playing dress-up in a sisters cheer-leading uniform but less dramatic than a drag queen.
The photograph pulls you in by not only showing you the unfamiliar but also the boy’s face staring right at yours. He is holding your gaze, with an extremely serious face.  He is inviting you in as if to say, “stare at me all you want, I’m not ashamed..” When I saw this face, I read it as “enjoyable yet serious”. If you think of a 12 year old boy dressed up as a cheerleader as a prank, you would assume he wouldn’t be as “into it” as this boy acts. This boy seems to being showing off some sort of pride. He is posed to the side, wearing flats, and his hands are next to face like a model. His hands seem to exaggerating his serious facial expression.
Bennett’s photographs in her “Real Life” exhibit really create the sense that we are “inside” the working class. She presents real life, ordinary photos that anyone can relate to. Kids riding in cars, family canoe trips and a special prom night kiss. Bennett catches these defining moments in her family’s life and creates an insiders perspective for the viewer. All of the angles in each photograph is like you are standing in the scene, passing by glancing to the side. None of the pictures are looking up or down on a scene. I think that is what gives us the insiders perspective on her life and makes the us think of our own memories.

“Real Life” Assignment

The photograph “Robert Driving Scott’s Truck” brings to mind both the examples Garland-Thomson provides. It is reminiscent of both the painting of Henry de Lotbiniere and the photo of Theresia Degener and Gisela Hermes. It is so, in that it is sort of posed, yet at the same time we are brought into the photo, rather than simply looking inactively. In the image we see the young boy Robert, the man; Scott, and a somewhat insider’s view of the interior of the truck, as well as the back grounding landscape.

The photo instructs us how to look in several different ways. We are first drawn in by the figure of the boy, then the man. The pale/light colors of their skin and the boy’s shirt grab our attention immediately, holding it for quite some time. The wild excitement and wide-mouthed smile of the boy also grabs our attention at first, especially as the smile reveals large braces. The fact that the two people are more or less centered in the photo also seems to direct our attention to them, as they are the main focus of the picture. But then the slightly darker, though still fairly light, colors of the back grounding trees sweeps our attention rightward through the photo until the end. The clarity of the two figures vs. the slight distortion of the background is what seems to initiate our focus, but the background does eventually pull us in, and then pulls us through the rest of the photo, horizontally speaking.

We read the faces in the photo as extremely happy. The boy’s (Robert’s) eyes are lit up with excitement and joy. He seems to be on a natural rush, as he sits behind the wheel of the vehicle. Scott’s face is somewhat more calm and relaxed, while still seemingly expressing a level of contentment. Scott’s face is more reserved with a smaller smile and showing, in some ways, his age. While Robert’s face is clearer and less reserved as it expresses joy. I am not sure if there is empathy to be grasped here. This picture for some might recall their own similar, or different, experiences. But, the two figures are not actively looking back at those who are staring at them. The photo lacks any kind of onlooker/subject interaction.

Lastly, we see that rather than a colonizing gaze, we are indeed looking from the inside, as opposed to looking down. We are brought so close to Robert and Scott that we feel as though we are in the truck with them, the hazy distortion of the background images also creates the feeling of motion, and I think that the photographer may have been in the vehicle with them, during the event. We are also, very much on their level height wise, not looking down literally or metaphorically. Also, the relaxing and warm feelings that come through via the faces, despite the lack of eye level engagement, gives us the sense of insider status.

“Real Life” Assignment

     The photo that I decided that I wanted to analyze was “Bartender Tricks”, Old Port 2006. I deiced to analyze this for many different reasons. Firstly this photo is taken in my favorite little city and only 10 minutes from me house although I don’t know what bar it is. Another reason why I picked this photo is because I feel as though it is an “every day” photo, even thought this trick I don’t think could be mastered by every bar tender that your going to run into. When walking around the gallery this one photo really caught my attention for a long time because of the mix of complexity and simplicity all in one.  

     The picture was black and white with two bartenders in the frame. The frame is mainly focused on the bartender that is doing the trick and the other bartender is in the middle of talking to someone over the counter (but we can’t see that, but we see the arm of someone buying booze) and he isn’t fully in the frame. The main reason why the picture had me staring at it was because of the trick that the bartender was doing. Between his hands he was holding 10 cups all stacked up in the line. Because there are so many cups they had a curve to them because gravity was pulling them down. In these cups it looked as though they had ice in them. Coming from the cups you could see that mixed drinks were pouring out into cups stacked in a row laying on the bar. There were 9 cups collecting the mixed drinks, and there were an addition three glasses turned upside down to place three on top. I think this was done so it would work out making just the amount of 9 perfect drinks with the hight difference that was needed. Once I fully analyzed the picture I looked around in the background and so much was going on. On the bar they have a bowl of sliced lemons and to the left (our left) they have a lot of different hard alcohol on a shelf rack sort of thing. They have what looks to be a tv turned on at the top of the photo with what looks like game scores running across the bottom. There also seems to be a tv that is turned off in the photo. There is a picture hanging behind the bar of a beach scene. I could also see that they had a bumper sticker that was showing and it said “sex instructor- first lesson free” giving the vibe that is it a less “classy” sort of bar and is more or a fun one. Both or the bartenders faces are not looking at the camera, one is looking at a costumer and the others look on his face is focused on the trick he is doing.

     I really enjoyed the picture because our main items that makes us intrigued is the glasses but when we look closer that are many other components that bring this picture together to make “stare-able”.

Real Life Assignment

I chose to analyze Glamour Shots- Grandma Tucker’s 80th Birthday Party, this picture definitely got my attention because of its simplicity. Bennett does a great job of guiding viewers eyes to the focal point of the piece, Grandma Tucker. She is the only person in the photo that we get a perfect un-blurred view. Grandma Tucker is in focus and everything else is very blurry. The people in her surroundings are all a blur, it’s hard to get a sense of what is going on behind her because the sole focus of the photograph is on Grandma Tucker. There is no real understanding of what exactly is going on in the photo. Bennett does a good job of making viewers focus on one thing and that would be Grandma Tucker.

I find it very ironic that this picture is titled glamour shots but Grandma Tucker is actually not made-up at all. You can easily tell that she is as natural right now as can be, very far from glamour. She isn’t even wearing any jewelry or clothing that could also give the impression of glamour. We have a perfect view of every wrinkle on her face, each one telling us more and more her age. I think it makes  the photo even more realistic because we are seeing a person who is a normal woman, not some model doing glamour shots. Bennett does a good job I think capturing who her grandmother is, this photo shows a woman down to basically nothing. You see her for who she is at the shoot, not an old woman hiding behind make-up, clothes and other accessories.

You can tell by the look on her face that she is happy and at peace. It’s very subtle but we can still tell the emotion on her face. It’s  great because you see a younger woman in the background who’s also wearing hair clips in her hair. I like how the attention is on Grandma Tucker who isn’t what we would expect to be glamorous, rather than the young girl who most likely is more glamorous than Grandma. It is interesting how the photo was shot so we can see the younger woman in the photo but she is not easily seen or focused on like Grandma Tucker.

The woman in the corner is also in focus like Grandma, I think it’s because her facial expression is quite interesting.  She’s smirking but her eyes look very judgmental, almost like she can’t believe Grandma Tucker is there getting glamour shots. I find it interesting too how the other woman is showed gazing down at Grandma Tucker, almost like she thinks she’s better than she is. I think Bennett did a great job making it known what to focus on in the photograph and giving you a story without being so obvious.

Real Life Assignment

The photograph that I chose to dissect, if you will, was “Prom Kiss.” It was definitely one of the pictures that really caught my eye and had a connection with. I had probably the biggest personal connection with this photo because I was not able to go to my senior prom because I was in South Carolina seeing my little sister graduate from Marine Boot Camp, so I never got to have a moment like the one depicted in the picture.

In “Prom Kiss,” it captures a young high school couple having an intimate moment on the dance floor at prom. There is commotion going on around them but they dont even seem to notice because they are so involved in the moment they are having. Their arms are wrapped around each other lovingly and look as if they might kiss, but for now are just looking into each others eyes which is said to be almost as intimate, if not more, than the act of actually kissing. The people around them notice the couple about as little as they notice them, which only increases and emphasizes the intimacy of the moment, because although they are in a room full of people all they seem to be able to see is each other.

This photograph really captures the concept of a couple in the sense that all their energy and attention is on each other. I think piece does a great job portraying the Prince Charming kind of auora, it is something you look at and just wish that it was you in that picture. It plays on all the princesses in all the Disney movies we saw as a child, where the pretty girl ends up with the handsome prince and you get to live happily ever after.

There are a few factors that make this photograph “stareable.” One factor is that it is something we recognize, something familiar. Although Garland-Thomson talks a lot about how we stare at things that are unusual or things that we are not expecting to see, we also like to admire things that we recognize and may be connected to in some way. For example, just about every girl or boy who went to high school went to their senior prom and probably had a moment like the one the couple in the photograph are having. Furthermore, this picture is stareable because since it is familiar, it most likely sparks their own pleasant memories from their prom and it leaves them feeling happy and nostalgic.