21 May 2006

Beauty in Photography? (Again)

Srinagar, Kashmir, 1948 © Henri Cartier-Bresson

This image of muslim women praying in the capital of Kashmir is a classic example of what I would call a "political landscape." The striking textures and lighting presage what we find today in work by Salgado who regularly is criticized for creating similarly beautiful images. Cartier-Bresson took the photo in 1948, in the immediate wake of Indian independence, the partition, war with Pakistan and the incorporation of Kashmir. Could it be coincidental that the women depicted here are Muslim given that much of contemporary political conflict in the region revolved (and still does) around religion? Does the way Cartier-Bresson uses beauty in the photograph - the composition, lighting, and so forth - detract from the viewers' ability to envision the currents shaping their political world in ways far beyond their own control and, quite possibly, their understanding?

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4 Comments:

Blogger EF said...

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26 May, 2006 11:13  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is a beautiful photograph.

26 May, 2006 20:08  
Blogger N. Grouse Dale said...

In answer to your question, no, I don't feel that the very high artistic merit of the composition detracts from what one may infer about the context of that photo. I suppose one could naively take this to be something about a presumptive "dawn" for the seemingly liberated peoples of the subcontinent and then reflect with 20:20 hindsight on what lay ahead for India and especially its Muslim population. But (again inevitably only with hindsight) I see the solid groundedness of the subjects as they face a welcome but not fully comprehended (as it never can be) future.

31 May, 2006 10:53  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I doubt the aesthetics of a photo would detract the viewer from the politics associated with it. If anything it would actually draw the eye to certain details, see something unexpected in the artistic rendition on a topic already often treated in the media e.g. Muslim women.

One thing about photos is that they're highly specific and particular, and this one is only of four women somewhere in Kashmir. To relate it to the huge entity known as the Muslims in India is a little presumptuous and dangerous.

08 June, 2006 04:02  

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