New Orleans Photo Alliance: the Clarence John Laughlin Award

The deadline for this award is coming up, but I don’t think I’m going to try for it right now. It requires an entire portfolio of work, and I’m still putting mine together. Plus a lot of the emphasis is on the written statements–process and intent, as well explanations of all the images–and that’s also something I’m still working on. So I think I’m going to stick a pin in it for now and apply next year, when I am further along in my work.

But I am definitely going to try for it eventually, because I’m really intrigued by Laughlin’s decision to include lengthy explanatory captions with his images, something the photographic community was very slow to accept. With a visual medium, “show don’t tell” can become a rigid mantra. And obviously a photo should be meaningful on its own; but I like the idea of being able to discuss what something means on a personal level to the photographer. Take as an example:


granny’s property 2, originally uploaded by pinstripe_bindi.

If I may flatter myself, this is an interesting photo purely on visual merit alone. The color is almost shocking, like something from a Dr. Seuss illustration. And the way the dark foreground tree overhangs it gives the viewer the feeling of approaching lightness and brightness from somewhere dark and gloomy.

But what if I was able to include an explanation of why I took this photo? That it’s a tree that grows on my grandparent’s property; that since Hurricane Rita destroyed their house, the trees are all that’s left. That the only thing that even tells you there was once a house there are a few oyster shells that was once the driveway, and a small concrete slab that a storage trailer rested on. (The house itself, like so many in rural south Louisiana, was raised and didn’t have a foundation.) That looking at this photo gives me conflicting feelings of loss and comfort–so much is gone, yet something of beauty remains.

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