Picture of the Month Man and Horse
Photo by NYIP Graduate Hannah Starman
City dwellers, in time, grow used to the noise, the hustle and bustle, the crushing press of a myriad of people. But for many the urban life is one of necessity, not choice. The people are here because the jobs are here, the shops are here, the cultural life abounds, schools, hospitals, apartments, parks, etc. all prevalent.
Yet for many of us there remains the dream of the countryside, the pleasures of a simpler life. If we read Chekhov, Jane Austen, or Thomas Hardy one cannot escape the magnetic pull of country living. Stepping back in time, as it were, when life seemed far less complex.
Hannah Starman of Metz, France has provided the Picture of the Month, a rural scene showing a pair of horses, their handler, an ancient farmyard in the fading light of day. A pastoral picture reminiscent of the paintings by Corot, Millet, Rosa Bonheur, et al. Photographs made by Peter Henry Emerson or the early ones by Eugene Atget.
If we envision an idyllic country life such as portrayed by the writers, painters, and photographers mentioned previously we have almost automatically established the strong subject matter intended in our first NYIP Guideline. At the same time we acknowledge that the photographer, Hannah Starman, has simplified the picture by selecting just a few objects to make her composition ñ two horses, the man, the ancient cobblestones, the trees, and the sky — that's all.
So the first and third Guidelines have been described. Let's look at the second Guideline: focusing attention on the subject.
The photograph is a study in subtle soft muted colors, perhaps made in the early morning or the late afternoon. There seems to be a bit of mist or fog rising from the earth between the man and the gray horse. Long shadows extend from the three figures to the bottom of the frame, clearly indicating the picture was not made in the middle of the day.
Dark tonalities on either side of the horses envelop the animals, not in any way threatening but establishing not only the time of day but also the feeling of something old, solid, worn down through the years. The massive stones of the archway and the cobblestones themselves enhance this feeling, too. Apparently there is a watering trough at the left and possibly on the right as well. These are devices that further strengthen the concept of antiquity.
Strong leading lines extend from the lower left hand edge of the picture to the horses and man and beyond to the right center area of the photograph.
I think that the photographer might have strengthened the picture somewhat by stepping back enough to show the entire archway.
I have no feeling that Hannah Starman intended to make a great statement here. Instead, she is showing us the quiet beauty of this rural scene, one to be appreciated for what it is — not for some esoteric or arcane meaning.
Art should be broad enough to encompass both the lofty and the mundane.