In the book “To understand a photograph” by John Berger (organized and introduced by Geoff Dyer and translated by Paulo Geiger) (in Brasil: Cia das Letras. São Paulo. 2017) (an authentic treatise on photography) I read and reread for some times (good things have to be tasted homeopathically) the ‘reading’ of the photo on the left from 1944 (taken three years before this scribe was born) by Paul Strand in Vermont, New England-USA, and what you can read there with all the lyrics impress me, move me a lot.
Says Berger of Strand’s work: “His best photographs are unusually dense – not in the sense of being overloaded or obscured, but in the sense of being filled with an unusual amount of substance per square centimeter. And all this substance becomes the essence of the object’s life. Take the famous portrait of Mr. Bennett. His jacket, his shirt, the beard on his chin, the wood of the house behind him, the air around him become, in this image, the very face of his life, of which his facial expression is the concentrated spirit.
The photo on the right that I took in 2019 of an onion picker in Casa Branca (SP) has a much more explicit surface given that the worker is in his own work environment. And, without due permission, but with due daring, ‘reading’ my photo, I make my own Berger’s words about Paul Strand’s photo in vogue: all the substance of the photo is in the expressive look of the worker, in a marked face by the hardships of hard work and in the properties of his surroundings: the harsh and striking light of the day in the middle of the day, the onion harvesting bucket, the bags of onions lined up behind him, two fellow workers and the bus that brings him very early for the harvest and takes him back home at the end of another day of this person’s hard day’s work.
As well said by Berger (opera citato) “in the relationship between photography and words, the former craves an interpretation, and words usually supply it. Photography, irrefutable as evidence but weak in meaning, gains meaning from words.