'The Gesture' -Part 1
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Thursday, September 29, 2016
By David P. Senner
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This is the first installment of the show I am presenting in my new studio in the Santa Ana Artists Village this Saturday, October 1. The show is a retrospective of work I've done over the last 45 years, with emphasis on work I did in the 70s and 80s, while I worked as a newspaper stringer in Chicago. Over the next several weeks I will be publishing pairings of the photos from the show in my blog with back stories accompanying each image.

As I selected and reviewed the photos included in this show, I found that almost all of these images centered around, not only a 'decisive moment' (a term made famous by the late Henri Cartier-Bresson), but could be boiled down to, for me at least, a 'gesture'. I realized that, consciously or not, whenever I'm framing an image in the camera's viewfinder, I am interested in capturing a sense of motion, a sense of change, a feeling of impermanence that manifests itself not only in candid images of human activity, but also in the natural world around us. I am always looking for that telling 'gesture' that tells the story of a meaningful moment, which if left unphotographed, is lost forever.

'Golden Gloves', Chicago circa 1978 - Some of the newspaper assignments I enjoyed the most (and which were among the most challenging) were those of youth sports, as in this case, the Golden Gloves boxing competition. Often with sports, the most revealing images are away from the main action.  I think what makes this image powerful is how the arms of the boxer hanging passively in between his legs are contrasted by the action of the cornerman's arms actively demonstrating how to throw a punch on the one hand, and the reassuring hand on the young man's shoulder on the other. How the arms and legs and eyes all come together makes for a cohesive and powerful composition. And of course, the empathic interaction between the older, white cornerman and the young African-American boxer still resonates in today's racially charged society.  This photo was featured in a full page photo essay on the Golden Gloves competition.

'Little League Coach', Chicago circa 1977 - Here is another youth sports photo. In this particular case, the coach happens to be the father of the young ballplayer. I believe that what makes this image work is the fact that the action and the reaction are captured in the same moment. Also, notice the how the hand gesture of the young man mirrors that of his dad. However, it is the expressions on their faces that really tell the story.

                   

Sometimes a gesture appears in the form of facial expression alone. Particularly in the context of the uniforms and symbols here, the facial expressions are crucial to the impact of these two photos.

'Chicago Task Force Cop', circa 1972 - This photo was taken very early in my photographic career, before I was doing work for newspapers. The scene was downtown Chicago just four years after the infamous, 1968 Democratic Convention. Lots of demonstrations, lots of cops on the street; and these were called Special Task Force cops - equipped with hard helmets and riot gear. This was something new at the time. It was almost certainly the brainchild of the elder Mayor Daley who was mayor of Chicago in 1968  and still was in 1972, when this photo was taken.

'Neo Nazi Rally', Berwyn, IL1981 - I went to this neo-Nazi rally in Berwyn, IL, a working class suburb just to the west of Chicago and rather quickly realized that most of the 'Nazis' were kids from as young as maybe 9 years old up to as old as 16. I'm guessing that this young man couldn't have been more than 15 at the time. The young man's expression betrays an anger that seems somewhat 'posed', but the scariest thing about the photo is the older man in the background with the smirk on his face - the puppet master no doubt. The photo is also a reminder of how potent a symbol the swastika was and still is to this day. The photo would probably be meaningless without it. Notice the contemporary touch that the logo 'KickAss' lends to the image. This is one of those photos that makes me wonder, where are they now. None of the photos, from the many I took that day, have ever been published, except on this website.

                      

                    

Putting this show together has reminded me of how much things have not changed in the last 50 years.


 


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