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Recent Influences in Photography

A look at Gordan Parks and Adeolu Osibodu

Published onJun 24, 2022
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** disclaimer: none of the works listed belong to me. all can be found at Adeolu Osibodu’s website listed here and the Gordan Parks Foundation

After taking a few thousand photos in the past 6 months I have begun finding photographers that move me in some way. Adeolu Osibodou has been the first. I remember coming across the following image on Tumblr.

"his friend and fellow photographer Bade Fuwa at sea" - GQ

I thought nothing of the source of the work for a long time, yet I knew I felt something every time I looked at the picture. Looking into the photo is what introduced me to Adeolu’s photography. Gordan Parks was the next find for me. I stayed curious about photographers whose work made me feel. And stumbled upon this photo

Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956. From the Gordan Park’s Foundation

The red from the womon in the background and the words on the sign contrast the blue dress. A blue arrow compliments the dress leading our eyes to the colored entrance they face away from. The looks on their faces, the car blurring by. It all seems very much staged. The picture has the feeling of a painting. And yet another glance reveals street photography techniques such as a wide focal length (28-45mm), a wide lens aperture to make up for the overcast day, and shade cast by the buildings. A slow shutter speed to adjust for light as well. So what are we seeing? Racial disparity.

But try this one.

Photo of Greek-American soldier by Parks for the Farm Security Administration. Photo from the NYPL digital collection

Who the hell finds this frame? There is an artistic eye to Parks that I feel makes him great to view alongside Osibodu. There are actually four photos I want to examine that vacillate between homage and spiritual affinity. The photographs from Gordan Parks are all of Bendictine Monks taken in 1955.

The staged photograph versus embedded reporter style shows what our photographers may be thinking about before capturing these photos. The first two draw our eyes diagonally across the images. The lighting has Gordan finding a frame and balancing light to capture a shot. How he pulls off the solemn nature Idk, maybe a bunch of guys with robes and hoods, but the lighting, framing, and setting hide a supreme chad-like effortlessness in composition. What Osibodu does is quite different. Through staging, Osidbu controls the capture of a surreal glow. To the bottom right we see the whites of someone's eyes. Other figures have their heads down and their faces are obscured. At the top right, we see figures just outside a candle’s glow, with someone looking toward the figures. The photo suggests there is something we do not know.

The following two I like because they feel like opposites of each other in what they depict. Like the tethered in Us. The juxtaposed figures play with each other. The ominous element of one betrays the polite fraternity of the other.

I will end with the last two. Both share a striking black line to trace your eyes vertically and space horizontally. I can imagine the movie each still belongs in. The first is our protagonist's dream about where they need to go on their journey. The next is a shot cut between a priest walking with acolytes after tending the morning’s chores.

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