Comparison of Two Pictures by Josef Koudelka Essay Sample

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Both of the pictures that I have chosen for my compare and contrast are by Josef Koudelka. The first picture is called Czechoslovakia and was taken in 1968. It seems to be a modern social image. When you look at the man’s watch you can see that the picture was taken in the middle of the day, yet there is no one around. This makes the viewer wonder why such and obviously urban landscape is barren. It is a static, horizontal, monochromatic, fine image that is taken from both bird’s eye as well as eye level.

The watch in this image is at eye level but the rest of the image is taken from bird’s eye, which helps to give the image a sense of distance. Since there is a watch in the picture telling a specific time at which there is none around it is highly unlikely that this image could ever be reproduced and it is therefore a moment in time. The photographer uses the lines of the street to give the street an added sense of distance. His arm provides a sharp contrast from the otherwise urban scene and sets the image of balance. I feel that it gives the viewer a sense of melancholy due to the desolation as well as a feeling of loneliness. Since the image is in unlimited focus the arm which is so close to the lens it helps to highlight the desolation in the picture as the photographer appears to be the only one around.

The other picture that I chose was called Spain and was taken in 1971. It appears to be a picture of a village celebration. It is a modern, social and historical moment in time because even if the event were to occur the next year the people would have changed quite a bit and they might celebrate in a different place. This fine monochromatic image was taken outside in what could either be a village or a small suburb; it is hard to tell with the smoke and general lack of light. It is taken at eye-level towards dusk. The time of day as well as the subject of the picture makes it really interesting because none of the faces are really clear, so it could be anyone. This static, horizontal image seems very posed to me because of the men wearing suits. It seems to me like it was more of a political stunt then anything else because in our society people do not tend to wear business suits at a non-black tie party. Because of the suits I find that while the picture should portray joy and excitement I end up feeling nothing because it seems so fake.

These pictures are physically both very different, but they gave me a similar emotional response. While Czechoslovakia has no people in it and therefore seems desolate, I get the same feeling from Spain because it feels so staged. Czechoslovakia is a very clear, sharp image that allows the viewer to see the exact purpose of the picture, and therefore the viewer is guided to his or her own conclusions. However, in Spain I find that the dusk lighting as well as the smoke really helps to highlight the fact that there is something deceitful going on and that the viewer has to be careful and make their own judgements which are not based on first impressions. I find Czechoslovakia to be a more successful image because it is more honest and I do not get an uneasy feeling looking at it like I do when I see Spain. If Spain was meant as a commentary on the photographers view on politicians or a similar matter I think it is very successful, but otherwise it seems very awkward and out of place because based on the peoples body language, it is not the happy occasion that the viewer is originally led to believe. Overall, I like Czechoslovakia better than Spain and think that it is the more successful image.

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