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Pope and Peress

The men in this picture all inhabit one narrow stretch of city, but they all head in different directions, hardly seeming to notice one another. Tilted planes and tipped horizons give this photo a drive-by feeling. Photographer Carl Pope calls it a “snapshot aesthetic.” Pope used a toy camera to make this picture, and the viewfinder wasn’t very accurate. He could see only approximately what the lens of the camera saw, and rather than try to compensate for its errors he played on them by using his intuition as much as his eye. The result was a picture that documents that process as well as this neighborhood in Carbondale, Illinois: a photographer reacting to what he sees and letting the camera take care of the picture.

“I realized that people have a really intuitive relationship with photography and most people’s relationship with photography is through their personal documentation of their own history with their family and friends and their trips,” explains Pope. “That informal way of composing is a really powerful strategy to use as a photographer to draw people in. The immediacy of a seemingly informal composition is a way of really speaking the language of people who have cameras, of the way we see our lives in pictures. I am always fascinated by that and always ready to use photography in that way. There are a lot of other ways people understand photography. We understand photography through advertising and through photojournalism, but the most immediate and the most emotionally enriching way is the way that people take pictures of the people of they love, because of that sort of investment.”

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Minneapolis Institute of Arts