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Saturday, September 29, 2007

In this charming pictures by Carlos and Jason Sanchez the nice man is giving the little girl some presents.

In a windowless attic room. And that's her backpack. And she doesn't look that happy to be getting presents; she's wondering what's on the card.

The photo is called "The Abduction."

The Sanchez Brothers currently have a really disturbing exhibit you ought to go see if you're in Montreal. It's of posed large-format photographs, and it's at the Parisian Laundry. There's a picture of a way-too-young beauty queen, and a lovely white building in the snowy woods that turns out to be a crematorium. Some of the pictures don't set off your alarm bells until you see the title; others are immediately upsetting, like the body being dug out of the mudslide, and the dogs snarling.

I find the exhibit intriguing because many of the photos are staged. Most photography is meant to be documentary. The photographer is only meant to be choosing the frame and the exposure. If he moves items in the frame for a better composition, he's cheating.

Then, of course, there are art photographs whose elements are arranged, but with no pretense otherwise: still life photos, abstracts, surreal collages, etc.

The Sanchez Brothers belong to a tradition that originated in Vancouver about thirty years ago, where the photographer stages and then shoots the scene. He has to imagine the scene, cast and costume the actors, rig the lights, direct the emotions and only then start shooting. If it's effective, it can feel like the photographer just happened to be there at the right time and the right place. Or it can raise disturbing questions like, What is the photographer doing there? And why isn't he calling the police???

We just bought this Amy Stein photograph, of a girl facing a bear that has just appeared next to her swimming pool. It feels entirely like the photographer lucked into an amazing shot, except she would have to be about three feet behind a bear, which seems unhealthy. In fact the bear in the photograph is stuffed and mounted. (You can get away with that in a still!) The photo is even more striking in person. I would buy one of the Sanchez Brothers pics, too, because they're going to be famous soon. But I don't think I could have their quietly alarming pictures up on my wall!

What's real? What's staged? Can a staged photo get to a level of truth that a documentary photographer will never see?

Go check it out.



I like to think of these photos as one-second films. They tell a story at its most dramatic, compelling moment. The viewer fills in the rest.

I'm always drawn to photos that make me ask, "And then what happened?

Check out this one:

By Blogger Lisa Hunter, at 7:39 PM  

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