In the 1950s Aaron Suskind did a series of photographs, The Divers. The first time I encountered these photographs was at the Dallas Museum of Art. I wasn’t impressed. The photographs are of young men jumping off of pilings into the Hudson River and Suskind had eliminated everything but the figure of the jumper. There is no environment to explain how these figures got suspended in mid air. He had even printed the images with a relatively high contrast so that even the sky disappeared—just the figures of the jumpers and the contorted shapes they assumed. What Suskind was seeing was the ballet created by their bodies. He chose his presentation of the photographs so that the viewer would see what he was seeing, which is what photographers are supposed to do. I purchased the catalog of the show and eventually came to enjoy the photographs.
Debi Henderson and I went to the Betz Gallery yesterday to see the photographs hung by the Gathering of Photographers group. We then planned to photograph the Diversity sculptures after dark. To kill time between the two, we stopped by the skate park. I am basically having a difficult time getting into photography lately—I just find it difficult to become enthused especially in new situations. That is the way it was at the skate park. I wasn’t seeing anything that really caught my attention. Pictures I had seen of skateboarders usually showed them from down low, possibly suspended, flying through the air. Photographers were not allowed into the area where they were skating so almost everything had to be shot from above.
About a month ago I shot some photos at Discovery Green of the children playing in the fountains. Most usually I would have zeroed in on a kid I thought was interesting and snaped away hoping for something to happen. Instead I picked out a background and waited for a kid to move into my field of view. Surprisingly it was a technique that, for me, worked out very well. I got two photographs that I thought were pretty good and because I had preselected the background I didn’t have to worry about distractions. I decided to try that same technique at the skate park. I only shot from about two different locations, but the locations were chosen because of what I would be able to use for background—well that and the fact that at both locations there was a bench so I could sit down. I just waited for something to happen in my field of view and as a result I actually came home with a number of photographs that I liked very much. I loved the shapes of the structures and all the dramatic shadows of late afternoon.
In processing the images I had that same feeling I have about the photographs of Suskind’s divers—it is a ballet performed by ordinary people. The skate boarders are concentrating on their balance, their maneuvers and the body language is free to dance. Maybe no one else will like the photographs, that’s okay. I like the photographs and may just have to start hanging out a skate parks.