Currently on view at the UNIVERSITY GALLERIES ON SYCAMORE is the Raymond Walters College Student Exhibition: Electronic Media Communications 10-Year Anniversary. Filled with exciting images, the gallery boasts one piece that stands out: "Gretchen," by student photographer LESLIE HUNT. Technically speaking, "Gretchen" is a 35-mm color gelatin silver print, matted with a rich black border.
As far as I can tell, the color balance is accurate enough to achieve an honest rendering of skin tone and vibrancy that makes the subject appear true to life.
Analytically speaking, however, the photograph is much more than that: This piece touches on something deeper than can be addressed here. "Gretchen" allows the viewer to see the subject from the eyes of the artist. Through it, we are privy to the same gaze and level of intimacy to which the photographer was. But our reaction is different, because we, as viewers, get to make some of our own conclusions not only about "Gretchen," but about the artist as well.
The viewer's process most often begins with a bit of deductive reasoning, which generates some questions. Let's start with what we can see: that "Gretchen" is an attractive woman by current standards. Shown with full, pursed lips, she is most likely coming in for a kiss, suggesting that she was well acquainted with the artist. Her chosen make-up indicates that we are to believe that she was going "out."She also looks like she comes from a middle-to-upper-level socio-economic class. Nothing visible in the photograph alludes to the belief that "Gretchen" fell upon hard times or had to do any grueling physical work. Or maybe she did.
The power of photography gives Hunt the opportunity to present an altered sense of reality if she chooses. This photograph is a piercing example of that: Hunt allows the viewer to decide what we know, and to be honest about what we don't know, instead of relying on a reality presented without context. (The exhibition continues through March 9.)
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