Firstly, diCorcia’s work is absolutely stunning. The outcome of this so called simplistic way of taking a photograph has clearly resulted in great and dramatic results, where ordinary people are elevated to the status of almost stars in a cinematic venture. I absolutely loved the way his images have turned out. The images portray several candid expressions and narrates the vulnerability of the subject so effectively, portraying a story far deeper than that of being just any other portrait. It is a telling insight into what was going on in the person’s head, the thought process, the emotional state, the far-away look – its absolutely brilliant. Such a true capture of a thought, feeling or emotion can only come out in a candid capture in my opinion and thats what sets his work apart.
The use of a long telephoto lens is the key here to get that out of focus background – I doubt that his reason to use one was to hide as has been pointed out in the comments section of his video where he shares his views and approach to this project. I relate to this very strongly as for my assignment three, I have experimented with various lenses in order to see what comes closest to my vision. In a way, my project is on similar lines but with a subject who will thankfully not sue me.
Philip-Lorca diCorcia for this particular series called ‘Heads’ took his camera to the busy and bustling Times Square in New York, put it on a tripod with a long telephoto lens attached. He affixed a powerful strobe light to the scaffolding, using a radio trigger to activate the strobe in sync with the pressing of his shutter, to capture unaware pedestrians from a distance of more than 20 feet away. The light was inconspicuous to the unaware pedestrians as it happened in broad daylight, highlighting the person in great detail while receding the surrounding area into the background. This project lasted for a period of two years and eventually led to the selection of 17 final images out of the 4000 he took (MoMA, 2020).
“I was investigating things: the nature of chance, the possibility that you can make work that is empathetic without actually even meeting the people.”(diCorcia, 2010)
His approach to taking the photographs can be debated without getting down to any one consensus, especially in the context of where I come from, I would be in jail for the rest of my life for doing or attempting anything like this. In 2006, the Heads series became the centre of a legal court case when Erno Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Hasidic Jew, and one of the subjects of his acclaimed project sued diCorcia for exhibiting and selling images of his likeness without his consent, violating religious beliefs, and in legal terms, a violation of the Civil Rights Law and New York State Privacy laws. Philip-Lorca diCorcia countered the same by arguing that the images could not have been made with the knowledge and cooperation of the subjects; eventually he won the lawsuit which allowed street photography as an exempted form of artistic expression and protected under the first amendment to the United States Constitution (MoMA, 2020).
Its amusing that the person who sued him was titled – Head #13.
Key points and learnings from diCorcia’s work-
- Adopt methodologies that create unexpected results
- Change an ordinary scene into something dramatic by applying unique and creative techniques.
- Doing things differently will result in unexpected outcomes.
- Take a chance.
- Investigate things.
- Make work that is empathetic.
- Creating work that is different from the others.
- Get serendipity into your work.
Fig 1-5 DiCorcia, P. (2020) Heads | Philip Lorca Dicorcia: Head On — Musée Magazine. At: https://museemagazine.com/features/2019/9/23/impact-philip-lorca-dicorcia-head-on (Accessed 16/07/2020).
DiCorcia, P. (2010) Exposed At Tate Modern. At: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpawWn1nXJo (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Gefter, P. (2006) The Theater Of The Street, The Subject Of The Photograph | Nytimes.com. At: https://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/19/arts/design/the-theater-of-the-street-the-subject-of-the-photograph.html (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Moma.org. (2020) Moma | Philip-Lorca Dicorcia. Head #10. 2002. At: https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/philip-lorca-dicorcia-head-10-2002/ (Accessed 16/07/2020).
Blanch, A. (2020) IMPACT | Philip Lorca Dicorcia: Head On — Musée Magazine. At: https://museemagazine.com/features/2019/9/23/impact-philip-lorca-dicorcia-head-on (Accessed 16/07/2020).