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Monthly Masters DiscussionMonthly Master's Discussion - June 2019- Welty's "Window Shopping" - Photography or Literature?

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Monthly Master's Discussion - June 2019- Welty's "Window Shopping" - Photography or Literature?

Post by minniev »

I confess that this is the Masters’ Critique offering I have most wanted to write. i began ruminating on the concept soon after I took over the Master’s offerings from Steve during the first year of FYC. Because I’ve had a lifelong love affair with literature, I’ve always been intrigued with the intermingling of literature and photography. And because I knew Eudora Welty and lived near her, I was especially fascinated with how her little known but surprisingly accomplished photography seemed to inform her acclaimed writing.

Welty was born in 1909 and lived most of her life in Jackson, Mississippi, except for a brief early stay in New York following college. She did a stint as a WPA photographer which undoubtedly helped prepare her for her later work. Her keen observational skills, as evidenced in both her photography and her fiction, can provide guidance for us that is as valuable today as it was when it was first put to paper. And her secret strength, which was the trust she established with her subjects through empathy and respect, could help us navigate the photographing of subjects just as sensitive as the subjects she captured. Most of Welty’s photographic work was done in the 1930s. For reasons explained in some of the links, she quit photography after her literary work became successful.

This summer, thanks to an online friend I made in the course of my dam bird project, I had a chance to see and handle the original images Welty developed in her darkroom in the state archives research facility, many that have never been published. The image I’m presenting here for critique was widely published and had an extra twist of interest in that its commonly known title was originally different. It is officially known as “Window Shopping.” Welty had pencilled a different title on the back: “Teachers Don’t Get Paid”.

Do yourself a favor and review the photographic collection revealed through the links below. Share your response to this image. Here are some questions to spur your thinking. Respond to any that interest you, or simply share your views.

1. What to you think of “Window Shopping”? Its composition? Technical qualities? Style? Impact? Would you want it on your wall? Why or why not?
2. Titles of photographs have an effect on the viewer, research has shown. Which title for this image do you prefer? Why?
3. Does the photo tell a story? What story do you see? Does the title you prefer affect the story you find in the image? How important is story in an image? Welty said of photography: “The camera was a hand-held auxiliary of wanting-to-know.” Does focus on story make more difference in some genres of photography than others? If so, which ones?
4. What do you make of the interchange between writing and taking photos. How might those two work together? or not? If you’ve read any of Welty’s fiction, please share your thoughts on how her work in these two creative fields integrates, or not.
5. Welty often chose to shoot directly into harsh light, and her images were not always. tack sharp. For exhibits, she sometimes even pencilled in light lines on the prints to demarcate edges in areas with lost detail, such as on the subject’s hat in this image. Do you think the technical imperfections detract from the value? Do we have stronger expectations of technical perfection today than in the 1930s? Is that a good or bad change?
6. Critique of Welty’s photographs often focus on her ability to convey her subjects’ dignity, pride, and humanity even though her subjects were often poor African Americans in a time and place where racial violence was common. What can we learn from her approach that could be applied to street and travel photography today?

LINKS FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: ... ipad-share ... nus-poems/ ... 94?lang=en ... 117044298/ ... s-history/ ... otography/
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"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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