Lance Lewin  

MoMa  - The Thinker by Lance Lewin

August 2022 - MoMa - The Thinker

About the Image(s)

Tech: ISO-1600 w/35mm full-frame digital capture at MoMa, NYC

The composition makes the "empty space" salient, with our
family as supporting actors, as it were. In this case the empty space
is creating tension and very much defines what I call ..."contemplative structure".
All in an attempt to promote a narrative.

However, not everyone is going to like the man's head cut off
at the forehead, but I still hope the overall work portrays
the narrative being achieved. Thank you.

8 comments posted

Stephen Levitas   Stephen Levitas
(Group 32)
So much to discuss here!
Evidently we are at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. We see the electro-sensitive guard rail behind that will sound an alarm if the wall space is entered by anyone. We see an all too infrequent and insufficient bench (with no back support for seniors like my wife and me). The principal supporting actor is posed as The Thinker, and I wonder if one of the many castings of the Rodin original is in this room.
Our Thinker's head is cut off, the very instrument that he thinks with, so he can't think--perhaps he is too tired of trudging around the museum to think anymore.
Perhaps our Thinker is contemplating the empty space in front of him, which echoes the fact that his head is empty (as in missing from the image). Or is the Rodin statue to the right of the photographer, so that both our Thinker and the original Thinker are both somewhat missing.
  Posted: 08/09/2022 16:58:30
Lance Lewin   Lance Lewin
Thanks for stopping by, Stephen!

Well, what can I say ... your interpretation is a viable one, indeed! I especially enjoy your expansion on the theme to include the Rodin statue. Again, as I often speak about, there are as many interpretations of art as those viewing it.

Really appreciate your "talking points" discussion, Stephen!   Posted: 08/11/2022 09:15:00

Ian Coombs   Ian Coombs
Wow - such an idea I would not have thought of, to have so much empty space in the image. Not sure about cutting of the man's head, or the missing head of the other adult. But I do like that the man is looking like the thinker, and you wonder what he is pondering!   Posted: 08/10/2022 07:02:21
Lance Lewin   Lance Lewin
Good day, Ian!

I often teach about using empty or white space in other genres: this significantly helps define a sense of "place": inadvertently, this also imbues certain emotional responses from viewers, such as, tension ... a powerful emotion that helps define narrative.

In this case, (and in my opinion) it was important to make the space a "salient feature" with the sitter's as supporting actors, if you will. (See my other comments with Beth).

Appreciate your critique.   Posted: 08/11/2022 09:10:20

Beth Payne   Beth Payne
I'm conflicted about this photo. I like the use of empty space and the thinker. I don't care for cutting off the heads. Was this intentional? What was your reasoning behind this?   Posted: 08/11/2022 08:44:07
Lance Lewin   Lance Lewin
Hi Beth! Yes, I am conflicted as well ... and the capture is not one that easily engages the viewer. (I do like Steve's interpretation however...).

If I am not mistaken, raising the camera higher would have exposed everyones head and gestures ... at the time I was not sure if this would work and lowered the camera. One of the things I always speak about in other photography genres is "working" a scene ...but in street photography we often only have a quick moment to visualize, compose and snap the shutter release.

I was on-line getting tickets with my wife and had to move on quickly. Too bad.

Thank you for your thought provoking comments.   Posted: 08/11/2022 09:02:59

Chuck Carstensen   Chuck Carstensen
Cutting off heads is never a good idea in my view. It is only something I learned early on. Street Photography is more story telling than it is fine art thought provoking. The basic idea is to expose the subjects gestures. Timing is everything.   Posted: 08/11/2022 10:32:21
Lance Lewin   Lance Lewin
Hi Chuck ... yes, I could have waited or pulled the trigger showing everyone ... indeed, it would have helped focus the narrative, if there was one to follow: in this sense, my idea was to focus on the subjects tired expression. It only has some value seeing the space in which he is surrounded by. Regardless, you are correct, No question, I should have included "all" of the sitters.

"Points to Ponder"
So everyone is clear ... using techniques (ideas) that help create "Fine Art" pieces is still very viable within a "Street Photography" context. Again, I have pointed many students of photography towards reviewing (studying) Gary Winogrand's work: many (not all) of his street photography series (e.g., Air Terminal shots is a fine example) work well when defining the "space" around the apparent subjects/s. Note a well trained (skilled) artist-photographer within the Street Photography genre can use negative, white or empty space, as I have explained, within the spontaneousness that is often critical in this genre. Henri Cartier-Bresson is another artist-photography who uses empty, negative (or open areas) within his field of view, that often make the surrounding space a "Salient" feature supporting the main subject. (This will be reviewed in my upcoming PSA article published in the fall).

Remember, everyone, Fine Art pieces are derived from all photography genres, including Street Photography. Thank you for your thought provoking comments, Chuck!
  Posted: 08/11/2022 14:59:21


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