Harlequin # 1

Hallequin 2014


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The classical appearance of the Harlequin stock character in thecommedia dell’arte of the 1670s, complete with batte or “slapstick”, in origin a magic wand used by the devil character to change the scenery of the play.[1] (Maurice Sand, 1860)

Harlequin (/ˈhɑrləˌkwɪn/; Italian: Arlecchino, French: Arlequin) is the most popularly known of the zanni or comic servant characters from the Italian Commedia dell’arte. It was introduced by the successful Italian actor Tristano Martinelli in the 1580s, and it became astock character after Tristano’s death in 1630. The derived genre of the Harlequinade, where the Harlequin character takes center stage, came to England in the 18th century (John Rich).

The Harlequin is characterized by his chequered costume. His role is that of a light-hearted, nimble and astute servant, often acting to thwart the plans of his master, and pursuing his own love interest, Colombina, with wit and resourcefulness, often competing with the sterner and melancholic Pierrot. He later develops into a prototype of the romantic hero. Harlequin inherits his physical agility and his trickster qualities, as well as his name, from a mischievous “devil” character in medieval passion plays.

In Victorian England, the Harlequin was routinely paired with the clown figure. The clown with his brutishness acted as a foil for the more sophisticated Harlequin. The most influential such pair were the Payne Brothers, active during the 1860s and 1870s, substantially shaping the 20th-century “slapstick” genre.

Cincinnati, OH 2013 – The Dude with his bike

Again, a rework of an image previously blogged. I darkened the background to bring out the characters in the foreground. This image suffers from some defects since it was captured from a video. Nonetheless, it seems to work OK.

Cincinnati 2013 Dude with a bike

Louisville, KY 2012 – Archway to Belvedere Square

This is a reworked image I took last year (2012). I have read one artist’s comment on her own work that she would like to take one of her works and redo it over and over for the rest of her life seeing what else there is in it.

Louisville 2012 Archway

Cincinnati 2013 – The Dude

Cincinnati 2013 Guy with a bikeThis is an example of frame capture from video. This dude was so animated I thought I would never get the shot I wanted. So I shot the video. Here’s the video and the captured frame. I really like to do this for quickly changing action, but the resulting tiff files are lower resolution than the native camera files, so there is a drawback. But still, not bad. I like the combination of video and still to show context. There’s another example of this combo coming up in a later post.

Cincinnati 2012 – Ethics of the hidden camera

The Critic

The Critic

This photo was taken in the very public space of Fountain Square on a Saturday morning. Now most people would stop to look at the painting. So I set up to point the camera at the painter. The zoom of the lens was wide enough to catch the passersby without my seeming to photograph them. I don’t think there’s an ethical issue here since I’m in the public arena. Because of where I’m standing many people would think there’s a possibility they were in the shot. So no lurking involved. Let me know if you disagree.

There’s an interesting history of the hidden camera in photography going back at least to the 1930s and possibly before. If any of you know of earlier examples, please let me know. In this blog post I want to discuss four examples and the ask the ethical questions involved.

Paul Stand 1916

Paul Strand 1916

Paul Strand (1890-1976) resorted to a right angle lens in some of his New York street photographs. In this non-copyrighted image from the internet Strand used his right angle lens to capture the blind woman. I don’t know if Strand asked her permission.

Walker Evans (1903-1975) illustrious photographer of the 1930s used a camera hidden under his coat to photograph New Yorkers in his subway series. Ben Shahn (1898-1969), famous for his New York City municipal mural paintings and photographs for the Farm Security Administration used a camera rigged with a right angle lens so he could photograph people without being noticed. But it’s humorous. People seem to know what he’s up to.

Ben Shahn right angle viewer

Ben Shahn using right angle viewer

Shahn was the master of this kind of subterfuge. A photo he took as an employee of the Farm Security Administration in the 1930s clearly shows him using the right angle lens and the reaction of the subjects. Look closely at the reflection in the window behind the men.

Our final example is Roman Vishniac’s (1897-1990) photos in the Jewish ghettos of eastern Europe during the holocaust. His motives were laudable. Vishniac wanted to photograph people who within a few months would no longer exist. He entered the ghettos and discussed his project with the elders. They flatly told him, “no pictures”. Like Evans Vishniac tried to hide his small camera beneath his coat. Some of his photos show the pained expression of recognition on his subjects’ faces.

So, let’s sum up. Do you think it’s right to photograph people anywhere with your smartphone pretending to make a call? When you do this, are you in public space or private space? Do you think it’s right to photograph a blind person without permission? Do you think it’s right to use a camera in a way to deceive your subjects? I think the only ethical problem may be Vishniac’s deception. But some would argue his photos captured the victims of Nazi brutality and made it personal.

I would appreciate telling me your opinion in these examples.