Street Photography, long championed by MOMA and John Szarkowski is a genre that has varied results. Walking the streets of major cities, a photographer can, fisherman like, cast a rectangular picture frame into the waters of the urban peoplescape, and sometimes land a striking image. Inside of the picture frame an unusual or quirky moment from the continuum of everyday life can be frozen forever.
At best, a photographer has an alert eye and a great sensitivity about how to organize the many elements into the photographs borders. At worst, this kind of work seems to be nothing more than a snapshot of people doing something that only the photographer thought was interesting when he pressed the shutter button. Essentially a voyeuristic activity, street photography preys on unsuspecting people freezing them for photographers’ knowing audience to examine. Some photographers are rather cruel, and their photographs portray people more as specimens. Other photographer treat human beings as elements that are arranged within a formal relationship inside of the picture frame. When to release the shutter is crucial, and the best practitioners have created enduring images.
Todd Papageorge knows well when to press his shutter button. Unlike the cruel and ridiculing manner of many street photographers practice, he has a light touch. The black and white photographs are made in Central Park, and capture most people in moods that range from amorous, playful or relaxed. A man stripped to his briefs lies on his back on a slope of uncut grass. The warming sun that encouraged the man to disrobe makes both the grass and his white skin glow.
Papageorge, captures people in relationships both emotional and physical. One image depicts two young girls dressed with the same style (short scanty shifts and hairstyles) standing on the left and right sides of a tree. The girl on the right is clutch kissing a young man, while the other appears to be brooding about being alone. Friends or sisters, who can tell, but their nearly identical appearances poses a question as to why one girl is being kissed and the other is alone. This show presents a small selection from more than 20 years of Papageorge’s work published in a new book.
There is humor in many of the photographs. A standing girl with her arms loosely hanging at her side stares at a ball hovering a few inches from her face. This instant make what is probably ordinary play into a kind of mystery. How is the ball suspended? It is a simple, offhand image, made without meditation of any sort, but the girl’s eye contact with the floating ball makes the statement.
The book is filled with all sorts of simple observations plucked out of everyday life. No image is terribly penetrating or dramatic, but as a whole the compilation of all those years of looking have proven that Papageorge has a sure and deft vision.
Astrid Korntheuer, Galerie Poller, 547 West 27th St. Through June 23rd. Like many German photographers, Korntheur has great command of her technique. Her subjects are not extraordinarily scenic, nevertheless she makes truly beautiful landscape photographs that are delicate and atmospheric. These are large, color ink jet images approximately 40×50” Many depict woods and grasses at twilight. The textures and colors are subtle but very engaging and a very deep spacial illusion is created. In one image, drops of water hang from the branches looking like pea size golden balls. The technical qualities of these photographs invite the eye to examine the entire image, and tiny sharply rendered detail provide much to examine. Also on hand are black and white images.