JANUARY 29, 2015

Swept Away

It must have been a fantastic January sale, even the window models lost their clothes! I see things like this on the streets of New York all the time since they change the windows a lot faster there, but to be in a small, French, agricultural town, on a back street no less, and to turn the corner, on a late and grey day, and come upon this window was quite a pleasant surprise – and let me tell you there was no one else on the streets, as is so often the case in French towns – where do they all go?

This kind of photograph is like shooting ducks in a barrel. It’s all there already, and all I have to do is stand in front of it and put a frame around it. And I probably have made more than my share of these kinds of ‘record’ photographs. But what do they record? And why bother to make it again and again.

Well, when I am out wandering and nothing much is going on, then anything that has a sign of life seems to be of interest. And in a way it’s a little like ‘priming the pump’, if I make a shot like this I feel somewhat freer, because something happened!  It feels good to be called out of the lethargy that can come over all of us when walking in strange, often quiet towns. It’s like a warmup, or a stretch.

So it records a moment of engagement for me, and it also records what this particular time, in France, in a small town, in the 21st century looked like. It is also a reminder that throughout the history of Photography this kind of image has called photographers to account. Think of Atget’s great photographs of windows with mannequins. Not that this has any bearing on his image, but whenever we connect with the past we keep the continuity of the medium going. And one never knows what might happen next because you stopped here to look, spend a few minutes thinking about what you are seeing, and then life resumes again and sweeps you away.

Jan-29 L1025728

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2 thoughts on “JANUARY 29, 2015

  1. Jose

    Joel, I know that small town feeling because I live in Spain and it’s a similar experience. Well, people are watching you behind curtains, that’s for sure, but anyway, when you’re walking all day long you need these “power shots” that keep you going. Many times I found myself looking for something amazing to happen, camera ready to jump, you know, but one day I realized the most amazing thing is to be there, alive, being able to breathe in life and all the tiny overlooked wonders.

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  2. Himes

    I just want to thank you for this wonderful blog and this post in particular. I am new to photography (although I’m almost 40) and I am at a point where I’m trying to learn as much as I can by reading books , going to exhibitions and of course going out and taking photographs… but I feel like I’m learning more by reading this blog than by everything else I have done so far. And in that sense this post is a real joy, because you put into words exactly what’s photography to me and why I became passionate about it. So thanks again.

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