photograph by Chuck Patch
Marja: The photograph chosen this week was taken by Chuck Patch in the French Quarter, New Orleans.
At first glance it echoes the famous photograph of the Central Park Zoo by Gary Winogrand. But even if this comment is written with Winogrand in mind, Chucks work stands alone as completely independent and does not need the other image to be appreciated.
As Winogrand did, Chuck touches upon a racial subtext in a humorous way and he confronts the viewer with its own interpretation of what is going on. Any controversial aspect is the fruit of our own imagination.
In this image the black children seem to be the inhabitants of the zoo, and in Winogrand’s photograph the inhabitants of the zoo are the chimpanzees in the arms of a bi-racial couple. Looking at the images regardless of racial issues opens up for other subtexts; like children in western society. Monkeys dressed like children and protected children locked behind bars.
This is what I find so valuable about Chuck’s work; it confronts you with your own interpretation of it and stays there in your consciousness as something you were unable to understand fully.
Jared: I almost wish I hadn’t read Marja’s take on this image before I wrote my own. It’s hard for me not to see the obvious parallels with the Winogrand photo she talks about. That said, it’s not the first thing that jumps to mind. Aware of the location, this speaks to me about the inequalities in post-Katrina New Orleans more than anything. There is still the obvious racial subtext — just a different one than the one Garry’s photograph tackles.
All the talk of social commentary is interesting, and Marja’s take certainly holds up better if the viewer has no idea where it was taken, but the photo is a brilliant street photograph regardless of location or social commentary. The ambiguity and unadulterated emotion carry it on its own. The kids behind bars reaching for something we don’t see, the baby looks like he’s pointing, the mother amused. Not an easy image to read, but well worth the effort.
From Chuck Patch:
For a few years almost the only time I had to make photographs was during my lunch hour. I worked in the French Quarter in New Orleans at that time, and for periods ranging from 20 to 40 minutes I would walk around taking pictures. The light was always terrible and all of these pictures were taken within a few blocks of my office. I would just snap pictures of anything that seemed interesting and for the most part don’t know what was going on in any of the pictures.