Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/01/13

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Subject: [Leica] Formalism vs. narrative
From: Jim Hurtubise <>
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 20:27:53 +0000

Kevin Hoffberg wrote on Jan. 11:

My artist friend has raised yet a new issue with me - that of formalism vs
narrative.  Are your pictures primarily about form or about the content
(meaning, story, etc.)  Interesting question.

Kevin Hoffberg


I'm glad to hear you are still at the PAD and sorry to hear about your M6
mishap. I just wanted to make a comment on the question raised by your artist
friend about formalism vs. narrative. My own feelings are that a truly great
narrative photograph must also include some aspects of formalism. Some of Gene
Smith's work was on exhibit here in Chicago about two years ago and one of the
most powerful photographs I have ever seen is his Minamata image of the mother
with her deformed child in the tub. In the recent book on Smith's work the
writer wrote about this image asking how can a photograph with such horrifying
content be so beautiful at the same time. I think the answer lies in the
formalist aspects of the image, and that is what I believe to be one of the
most difficult tasks in photography, combining form AND content.

Jim Hurtubise