Imitating (and trying to emulate) great masters of photography

I think photographers have a high regard for the stories behind each photograph. I confess that I go beyond liking; I am a great lover of the subject.

Two confessions: (1) I think that in my case, I like to say that ‘I behave like a photographer’ than ‘I am a photographer’ and (2) that I am not afraid to imitate or even (try) to emulate great masters of photography. I feel that this exercise always contributes to my progress and deepening in photography.

An example: I participated in the 1st edition of the ‘Valongo International Image Festival’ in October 2016 in Santos-SP, Brazil and in one of my ‘photographic wanderings’ I saw the tourist cable car that it goes around the city ready to leave and I took the photo that I am pairing with the Robert Frank’s iconic photo from the 1955 New Orleans-USA ‘trolley’.

Any similarity that may exist is not a mere coincidence. In that tiny instant ‘I saw’ the iconic photo of Robert Frank pass before my eyes and I pressed the camera shutter about 3-4 times.

This magnificent and historic photo by Robert Frank personifies the racial segregation experienced in those times in the USA. It is hard to believe that the 83 photos (taken on Frank’s trips to the USA in the mid-1950s) of ‘The Americans’ were discarded by a magazine because they considered the work “a collection of meaningless blur, grains, muddy exhibits, horizons drunks and general carelessness ”. “Nowhere is this tension higher than in Trolley – New Orleans, a fleeting moment that conveys the brutal social order of postwar America.” ( The author or authors of this post punctuate Frank’s work very well by saying that “uncomfortable truths tend to have consequences for the accountant.”

In ‘trolley’ you can clearly see the separation of whites (middle part forward) and black (sitting at the end of the ‘trolley’). There is also the detail of the left arm of the little white girl supported by a taller piece of wood that, hidden in the photo, the inscription ‘colored section’ of the bus. This piece of wood was to be moved backwards if there were no more seats for white people to sit on, thus taking off blacks who eventually occupied those seats ( orleans).

For me this photo is also emblematic for the facial expressions of the people who occupy the central part of the ‘trolley’ that materialize the reigning tension between whites and blacks in the USA (perhaps more especially in the southern states, as several authors point out) in that period of history .

The differences in context and stories between my ‘Santos trolley’ (2017) and Robert Frank’s ‘New Orleans trolley’ (1950) are ‘glaringly’ significant. As I said before, ‘any similarity that may be between the two photos is not a coincidence’. The only mere coincidence – and luckily for me – is that the Santos tourist tram passed right in front of me on the well-gone day of October 13, 2016.

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