In this article I want to talk about parallelisms between street photography and 20th century painting. There were many important and different avan-gards in the last century: futurism, fauvism, post-impressionism, expressionism (american and european), symbolism, abstractionism, fauvism, cubism… Many artists closed with classicism and started to paint something new. But in this article I’m more interested in realism: those paintings about reality and scenes of everyday life, those paintings about human beings… I like this kind of works because they remember me of street photography. A painter is like a photographer, the paintbrush is the camera. For these reasons I think we can find inspiration for our street photography. Of course when I’m writing this blog I haven’t in mind photographers as Daido Moriyama or William Klein or Bruce Gilden, but I have in mind classic photographer as Gianni Berengo Gardin and Henry Cartier Bresson. Paintings posted here have two things in common: human beings and a dramatic use of light.
Street photography and painting: Edward Hopper
Previously I’ve talked about loneliness in Edward Hopper‘s paintings making parallelisms with street photography. I love Edward Hopper and his capacity to create drama with the use of light, I love his lonely characters, his interiors and his point of view about human conditions, the silence and at the same time the suspence of the scene, the sense of incommunicability between two persons in the same room…
For more informations about Edward Hopper and street photography read my previous article here.
Street photography and painting: Virgilio Guidi
In the meanwhile in Italy we can find artists similar to Edward Hopper in 20th century. I’m talking about Virgilio Guidi and Alberto Ziveri (from the Roma school of Via Cavour) for example. The first one has his “magic moment” after Futurism and Methapshic. He was interested in human being and painted classic scenes of everyday life. His pictures are dynamic and dramatic thanks also to the use of light and composition.
The tram is probably his masterpiece; the scene is complex, this is an interior with a view out like in Hopper. Different people in a tram, different layers, look also at different hand gestures and positions. Two men on their backs are looking outside giving in this way a touch of mystery and surrealism to the whole painting (like Magritte’s men). They are looking to the real world beyond the curtain and the window: this remind me of a famous De Chirico’s early painting inspired by the Arnold Bocklin’s Ulisses (picture posted below). The other man in the background looking at us is probably the painter himself, a self-portrait. Light is warm and hard at the same time, it creates shadows and contrast giving drama to the whole scene. Now look at the woman in foreground, look at her lovely and motherly expression wrapped in a warm light: just poetry. This scene could be a wonderful street photo.
This is the De Chirico’s painting mentioned above.
By the other hands thinking to street photography I have in mind two classic pictures set over public transport. First one was taken by Robert Frank.
The second one is the Vaporetto taken by Gianni Berengo Gardin in Venice (his masterpiece).
Another picture I love by the same painter is The mother. For the naturalness, the light and the empty space this painting remind me of The milkmaid by Johannes Vermeer. But It has also the loneliness expressed by Hopper and the diagonals of Cezanne. Look also in this scene how hand gestures can give a voice to the silence. The semi-opened right hand, that probably was holding the napkin, suggest me that probably the woman is falling in a sweet and deep sleep. The contrast is given by the lines and acute angles created by the other arm which is in a contracted and unnatural position. The other contrast is purely chromatic: warm vs cold colors; this is perfect to improve the visual impact of the scene.
Street photography and painting: Cagnaccio di San Pietro
A great art movement of 20th century was the magic realism, born in Germany. It was about real situations with something special. The scenery is usually motionless and enchanted at the same time, there is something strange, people’s expressions are often astonished, like suspended in the void. The final effect is unusual and disturbing. In Italy the most famous painters of magic realism were Cagnaccio di San Pietro, Felice Casorati and Antonio Donghi. Personally I love the works made by the first one, its style is awesome. In his painting usually the magic element is cut off the canvas, he painted only human beings and their reactions to something supernatural. In this way Cagnaccio created also mystery and suspence.
In many of these paintings we realize that there is something happening outside the scene represented on canvas. This remind me of a “technique” used in street photography and ideated by Henry Cartier Bresson; he usually gave his back to public events to take photos of spectators. Same technique is used also by another street photographer with a classic style like HCB, his name is Gianni Berengo Gardin.
Another picture by Cagnaccio. This is a more classic scene, reminds me photos taken by Ferdinando Scianna in South Italy. The theme is the religion. The blue (and his shades) is absolutely the color most used by Cagnaccio; it is the color of sky, it has something spiritual, so it is perfect for this kind of scenes.
Street photography and painting: Alberto Ziveri
Another great italian painter of 20th century was Alberto Ziveri from the roman school of Via Cavour. Many critics called him the italian Edward Hopper. He painted natural scenes of common everyday life in the city.
A direct parallelism between Alberto Ziveri and Bob Mazzer’s street photography:
Street photography and painting: Norman Rockwell
I love Norman Rockwell. This is a perfect example for a parallelism between painting and street photography. Why? Because Rockwell painted starting by photos (with posed actors) as sketches.
END PART ONE
That’s all folks
Stay well, have always light in your life
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