Cruel and Tender Review

Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph

            The article Cruel and Tender explains how contemporary photography came to exist and shows how Tate’s first photography exhibition Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph acts as a recap as to how modern photography came to exist and play an integral role in our culture. Tate worked in collaboration with Museum Ludwig, in which photography is an intrinsic part of the museum. The exhibition deals with a “limited sphere of photographic realism (p.15).” Inspiration for the exhibition was taken from early twentieth century photographers such as August Sanders and Walker Evans. Evens explained how his photography acted as an attack on capitalism and the establishment however his work acted as the “imagery by which America recognized itself.”  Ideologically reminiscent to Evens is photographer Andreas Gursky because his photography reflects how capitalism drives mass production, which in turn has many other affects on humans and the planet.  Photography similar to film/video is a medium that not only records but also reflects the socio political issues from a certain time.  Furthermore, the article addresses how an of everyday life can be seen as an “element in modernist art history(16).” The article also deals with the concepts of engagement and estrangement in relation to the photographer and the subject. Sanders work uses a “New Objectivity” (17) because his distances himself from the subject that he feels engaged to. The article then address the notion of photography in relation to architecture, going back to the Industrial Revolution where most photographers saw it as an eye sore and went to capture romanticism and naturalism; whereas photography Renger-Patzsch took amazing photos of both industrial sites and landscapes to create an interesting juxtaposition between man vs nature. Bertold Brecht make a very important point saying, “single images can only tell a limited story” whereas a collection of carefully placed images can tell a greater and larger story (18).  The article then transitions in to portrait photography, which has “withstood the test of time” and continues to flourish in modern culture (18). Thomas Struth make a very interesting point saying, “the portrait is only effective if one grants a photograph the capacity to generate a form of truth in representation (19).” In my opinion this is very true in that certain elements of a portrait revel the true emotion how the subject feels. For example, one of the most famous portraits ever shot was of Sharbat Gula by Steve MaCurry and featured on the 1985 issue of National Geographic. In this portrait Sharbat’s eyes have an intrinsic quality that captures the viewers attention and revels the truth of her emotions. In conclusion the exhibition Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph illustrates how photography has come to be considered a prevalent art form because of its relationships with realism, culture, and socio political issues.

Photography Critique

Antebellum Plantation House

            My favorite photo from the presentation was the Antebellum Plantation House (1935) by Walker Evens because the photo takes the viewer back to a different era of racial oppression. Being from Louisiana I have been to plantation houses during several history classes and have a first hand experience how the culture and society use to function. What’s most interesting to me about this photo is sense of emotion that it creates. When I first saw it I noticed how the trees looked like they were dying as well as the plantation, leaving me with an ominous feeling of decay and death. Furthermore, Evan’s was able to capture a moment in time and show it others who would have otherwise never been able to see this dilapidated plantation.

In my opinion this photo is a subjective landscape photo because I feel it does not capture the objective vastness of the flat landscape. Aesthetically speaking ­­­­what I first noticed was the vertical lines that the photo creates – from the columns of the plantation to the trees. Also what caught my eye was the contrast between the bottom left of the photo and the top right of the photo. At the bottom right there’s a winding dirt road and at the top of the photo there is a little patch where the blue sky in contrast to the clouds. Due to the fact that this is a black and white photo the sky comes out as black and the road comes out a white, creating an interesting contrast between all four corners.

In the 1930s Even’s was commissioned by the Farm and Security Administration to capture the effects of the Great Depression for which Evans took several iconic photos. I believe this photo referentially ­­­­­speaks to the great depression because the disserted plantation. Generally, a planation would have been filled with workers and producing lots of agriculture however all the processes of a plantation seems to be stopped. On another level I think the photo also speaks to dissonance between slaves and slave owners; further the photo might speak to Evan’s point of view of racial oppression during the Great Depression despite the fact that racism was very strong especially in the South during the 1930’s.

When Walkers Even’s is contrasted to “The earliest reliably dated [Daguerreotype photo]” of Boulevard du Temple, a great advancement in photography can been seen.  When Even’s photography is juxtaposed to that of Daguerre, Even’s photo seems to have a much more contemporary aesthetic perhaps due to changes in technology and the change in mindset towards the power of photography.  Daguerre’s photo seems to objectively capture a moment in time, similarly Even’s photo of the Antebellum Plantation not only captures a moment in time but takes the photo one step farther in that it emits a subjective emotion to the viewer.

Three Research Ideas

Three Research Ideas

Final Images




Longing Def:

A strong persistent yearning or desire, especially one that cannot be fulfilled.


1. strong, persistent desire or craving, esp. for something unattainable or distant: filled with longing for home.

2. an instance of this: a sudden longing to see old friends.


3. characterized by earnest desire: a longing look


longing – prolonged unfulfilled desire or needlonging – prolonged unfulfilled desire or need






desire – the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state


hankering, yen – a yearning for something or to do something


pining – a feeling of deep longing


wishfulness – an unrealistic yearning


wistfulness – a sadly pensive longing


nostalgia – longing for something past


discontent, discontentedness, discontentment – a longing for something better than the present situation





desire, hope, wish, burning, urge, ambition, hunger, yen (informal), hungering, aspiration, ache, craving, yearning, coveting, itch, thirst, hankering He felt a longing for the familiar.


Antonyms disgust, loathing, disregard, indifference, apathy, revulsion, antipathy, abhorrence, unconcern



yearning, anxious, eager, burning, hungry, pining, craving, languishing, ardent, avid, wishful, wistful, desirous sharp intakes of breath and longing looks

yearning Antonyms

cold, disgusted, loathing, indifferent, unconcerned, uninterested, hateful, apathetic



“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel I’m gazing at a distant star.

It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.

Maybe the star doesn’t even exist any more. Yet sometimes that light seems more real to me than anything.”

― Haruki Murakami, South of the Border, West of the Sun


“She hardly ever thought of him. He had worn a place for himself in some corner of her heart, as a sea shell, always boring against the rock, might do. The making of the place had been her pain. But now the shell was safely in the rock. It was lodged, and ground no longer.”

― T.H. White, The Once and Future King


“The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”

― Fernando Pessoa


“To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing — the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one’s hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back to us again.”

― Marilynne Robinson, Housekeeping


“The Greek word for “return” is nostos. Algos means “suffering.” So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.”

― Milan Kundera, Ignorance


“These fragments I have shored against my ruins”

― T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems


“how sad and bad and mad it was – but then, how it was sweet”

― Robert Browning


“Ten long trips around the sun since I last saw that smile, but only joy and thankfulness that on a tiny world in the vastness, for a couple of moments in the immensity of time, we were one.”

― Ann Druyan


Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.


Francisco de Goya


*on longing

The Poetics of Space


sugimoto2 Hiroshi-Sugimoto-Indian-Ocean-Bali-1991 Sze Tsung Leong3 Sze Tsung Leong1 Sze Tsung Leong2



ideas7 ideas2


Boulevard du Temple by Daguerre

Xiaojun Zhang

DMA 173

In this body of work, one of my favorite is Boulevard du Temple by Louis Daguerre. This piece is processed through Daguerreotype, in which has strong dimensionality in contrast to the previous processes in history. The lights and shadows on the buildings especially create layering effect from the background to the foreground, where the darkness of the background gradually lifts up to the foreground creating a sense of space. Another nice touch in this photograph are the trees. The trees themselves as well as the shadows of the trees allows dainty patterning and rhythm along side of the road which leads the eye through the photograph.

In addition to the trees, I also find the human figure interesting. Since this process is taken by exposing on a plate, long exposure is required. So all of the other human figures are blurred out as the time passes except for the one that is polishing his shoes. I think this really tells an interesting story about the sense and perception of time. Daguerre’s work reminds me of the etchings done during the Baroque period. His contrast between light and dark reminds me of the Baroque contrast where the light is really strong to create drama.

The process of Daguerreotype is definitely innovative, it is long lasting and added a lot of dimensions to photographs. Also, in this photograph, Daguerre incorporated human figure which was previously rarely seen in photographs. I think his sensibility is very beautiful as well as his composition leads the eye around this photograph. I wish to explore more of his photographs to learn the analogue prototypes of photography.

James Welling: Monograph

Xiaojun Zhang

I think what struck me the most about James Welling’s work is his strong use of saturated color. By using color, he creates abstract forms in which is rather surreal in a sense. His work is more perceptive as he explores the photography world in his own eyes. I think another aspect of his work that is interesting is that he doesn’t merely rely digitally on manipulating the colors in his photographs, but he does it manually through colored plastics and glass, which creates a texture that otherwise is hard to create through the digital medium. He is not only limited to manual photographs, but he also uses technology by scanning subject matters as a way of documentation and photography. I think he explores in many aspects of photography and I would like to experiment in his method also.


Xiaojun Zhang

DMA 173

Reading Summary

Cruel and Tender: The Real in the Twentieth-Century Photograph is Tate’s first major exhibition dedicated to photography. In this exhibition, it signifies the shift in medium and has been given the space and prominence that the medium deserves. The exhibit is a contemporary practice, in which the director wanted to avoid an encyclopedic or historical survey. So this exhibition moves back in time selectively, tracing roots and pointing to intriguing parallels across time and geographies. This exhibit examines a form of photography that keeps within the limits of the medium in which it stresses pure description, in which it concentrates on a form of photography which explores the intrinsic aspect of the medium. This exhibit explores the realist tradition within twentieth century photography. It looks back in time towards significant historical antecedents at the beginning of the twentieth century, and at key mid-century practitioners. Cruel and Tender has three aspects which are the oxymoronic quality which consists of an engagement with the subject matter yet at the same time a distance or estrangement to its presentation; the relationship between industry and photography as represented in the exhibition; the portrait. Cruel and Tender looks at work that is simple and captures daily life, that the snapshots expresses informality, moving towards a democratization of social behavior, which speaks of daily experience, of the snatched fleeting moment, and in it we recognize a correlative of the inadequacies and imbalances of our own visual perceptions.


Xiaojun Zhang

DMA 173

Glow Event


Personally, I really appreciate things that glow in the dark, so the Glow 2013 Event was my cup of tea. It was an interesting experience in which I was able to see not only the exhibits which emitted light on the relatively dim beach, some of the visitors themselves had mini glow pieces of their own. I also enjoyed the fact that the show is held on the sandy beach, which allowed interesting silhouette of the people when they walk through the sand in front of the glowing exhibits, as they interact with the pieces and provided interesting visual landscapes themselves.  For my 20 photographs, I’m mainly interested in exploring the shapes and layers during my visit to the show. I included some back and white photos that focus on the layers of brightness and darkness itself, as well as colored photos in which I found necessary.



1800 Critique


            Ansel Adam’s iconic photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm” is a timeless piece of art. The first thing to be noted is the fact that level of detail Adams was able to capture. Individual branches and leaves can be seen in the photograph, especially when zoomed in. This shows Adam’s technical mastery over his craft. Compositionally, the picture is great as well; with focal points in the right places. The middle of the mountain inviting us into peek and see what’s behind the veil of clouds and earth. After doing some research on the image, I found that this image was shot from a parking lot, and the angle used is to obscure and disguise the human walking trails. This is very typical of Adams. According to the altered landscape article, Adams did little things to tweak his photographs to make them his own. Adams is showing a side of the American wildlife without necessarily showing the landscape on it’s own. It’s a false reality and manipulated to put Adam’s own personal touch on it. I think that this touches on what I’ve mentioned in class before about how something can be shot objectively and still be perceptive. There is no such thing as objectivity. I agree with a point the altered landscape article makes as well. The earth at this point has been imposed on so much by human kind that she can no longer be seen as natural. Through photography though, Adams and many other photographers dress her up and try to show her as they want her to be seen. To me, a word to encompass this photograph would be “epic.” As there are so many dramatic parts to this photograph, but it all works cohesively to make a great image.