Art and Photography
Resources

 email page    print page

All Topic Reviews
1000 Families2 ¼32 Stories365 Days51 Months5x7A Child's Life and Other StoriesA Couple of Ways of Doing SomethingA Lifetime of SecretsA Storybook LifeA Treasury of Victorian MurderActing OutAddiction and ArtAEIOUAfter PhotographyAliveAlive with Alzheimer'sAlone Together POCAltered StatesAmazing WomenAmelia's WorldAmerica at HomeAmerican AlphabetsAmnesiaAn American LensAn Exact MindAngel's WorldAngry Youth Comix #2Anjos ProibidosAnthony GoicoleaArchitecture of AuthorityArt After Conceptual ArtArt and HomosexualityArt and PhotographyArt in Three DimensionsArt Photography NowArt, Self and KnowledgeArt/PornAs We AreAsylumAttitudeAutoportraitBecoming Edvard MunchBeg the QuestionBelugaBerkoBig Rabbit's Bad MoodBill HensonBlab!Blab! 13BLAB! Vol. 14BLAB! Vol. 15BlanketsBoneyardBoneyardBoy StoriesBreakdownsBright EarthBrüselBurn, Bitchy, BurnBus OdysseyBut Is It Art?CanvasCaricatureChildrenChris VereneChristy ReportCinema PanopticumClass PicturesClick DoubleclickCloserClumsyClyde Fans CoincidencesComing of AgeComing of Age in Ancient GreeceConceptual Art and PaintingConfessions of a Cereal EaterConsider LoveCouch FictionCrumpleCzech EdenCzech Photographic Avant-Garde, 1918-1948Dan & LarryDargerDays With My FatherDead EndDear MomDeus Ex MachinaDigital DiariesDirty StoriesDisasters of WarDixie RoadDomestic VacationsDon't Go Where I Can't FollowDon't You Feel BetterDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDrawingsDriftlessEcstasyEdouard VuillardEnduring CreationEngland, My EnglandEntering GermanyEpilepticErwin OlafEscape from "Special"EVAEverything Will DisappearEvidenceExploring the Self through PhotographyExposureExpressionism Exquisite CorpseFamilyFamilyFamily LifeFandomaniaFaster than a Speeding BulletFictionsFigure and GroundFragile DVDFred the ClownFreud at WorkFridaFrom Girls to GrrlzFun HomeGeneration DadaGirl CultureGirls, Some Boys and Other CookiesGood-ByeGraphic WomenGrave MattersH R GigerHans BellmerHappy Halloween, Li'L SantaHauntedHere Is New YorkHey, Wait...High Art LiteHollywood CowboyHouse of JavaI Am Not This BodyI Love You But I've Chosen RockI Thought I Could FlyI'll Be Your MirrorI'm CrazyIllumineIn My Darkest HourIn Search Of DignityIn the Floyd ArchivesIn the Line of DutyInformation ArtsIntenseInvisible No MoreIt Was A Dark And Silly NightJack Cole and Plastic ManJimmy CorriganJock SturgesJock SturgesJust Between UsKafkaKatharina SieverdingLacan at the SceneLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLife's a BitchLight in the Dark RoomLine of Beauty and GraceListening to CementLittle LitLi’l SantaLoadsLooking For MayaLost GirlLouis FaurerLouise BourgeoisLove and DesireLove Lust DesireLuckyManufactured LandscapesMass ObservationMaster BreastsMetacreationMisty DawnMnemosyneMomeMona KuhnMy Brain is Hanging Upside DownMy DepressionMy Family AlbumNatural BeautiesNatural BeautyNerveNerveNew and Used BLAB!New York September 11Night FisherNightswimmingNo More ShavesNotes from a DefeatistNothing ObviousNothing to HideNudes and PortraitsOliviaOlivia Saves the CircusOn City StreetsOne EyeOnly a Promise of HappinessOptic NerveOptic Nerve #11Optic Nerve #9Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & PiratesOutsider ArtPanic at Toad HallPatrolPaul M. SmithPeculiaPeekPeople Love PhotosPerfect ExamplePersepolisPhilosophersPhonesexPhoto ArtPhoto Icons I (1827-1926)Photographers, Writers, and the American ScenePhotography and LiteraturePhotography and PhilosophyPhotography and SciencePhotography and the USA Photography RebornPicturing DisabilityPlaytimePOPismPostmodernismPsychedelicQuestions without answersRaptors Raw YouthRay's a LaughRazmatazReclining NudeRed SnowRemembering GeorgyRequisite DistanceRineke DijkstraRippleRobert Doisneau 1912-1994Robert MaxwellRoom to PlaySame Difference & Other StoriesSanctumSatan's Sex BookSatellitesSchizophreniaSee Me Feel MeSelf-Taught and Outsider ArtSexSexual ArtSexyBookShadow ChamberSidewalk StoriesSkin DeepSleepwalkSmall FavorsSmile of the BuddhaSpectral EvidenceSpentSshhhh!Stranded in CantonStrange Stories for Strange Kids Stranger PassingStripped BareSummer BlondeSurrealismSymbols in ArtTestimonyThe Aesthetics of DisengagementThe AlcoholicThe Art InstinctThe Art of Adolf WolfliThe Art of MedicineThe BabiesThe Birthday RiotsThe Blue Day BookThe Blue NotebookThe BodyThe Body as ProtestThe Boulevard of Broken DreamsThe Breast BookThe Breathing FieldThe Bristol Board JungleThe Clouds AboveThe Devil and Daniel JohnstonThe Diary of a Teenage GirlThe Education of SophieThe Erotic Lives of WomenThe Face in the LensThe Illustrated Story of OThe Incantations of Daniel JohnstonThe Madonna of the FutureThe Mirror of LoveThe New Erotic PhotographyThe New LifeThe Other PlaceThe Philosophy of Andy WarholThe Places We LiveThe Psychology of Art and the Evolution of the Conscious BrainThe Push Man and Other StoriesThe Scar of VisibilityThe September 11 Photo ProjectThe Shiniest JewelThe Speed AbaterThe Steerage and Alfred StieglitzThe Story of Frog Belly Rat BoneThe Story of SexThe Stuff of LifeThe Three ParadoxesThe Transformations of GwenThe Transformations of GwenThe Transparent CityThe TravelersThe ValleyThe Van Gogh BluesThe Wolves in the WallsThe Yellow HouseThinThings as They AreThinking of YouTierney GearonTime and SilenceTina's MouthTits, Ass, and Real EstateTransitionTrauma and Documentary Photography of the FSATravelersTropical BlendTwentieth Century EightballTwilightUnlikelyVagina WarriorsVernacular VisionariesVietnam At PeaceVisual CultureVitamin PhWar Is Only Half the StoryWhat Are You Looking At?What Art IsWhat Good Are the Arts?What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally MannWho Am I, What Am I, Where Am I?William KentridgeWillie DohertyWithWriters on ArtistsYoung PhotographerZip Zip My Brain Harts

Related Topics
Stranger PassingReview - Stranger Passing
by Joel Sternfeld
Bulfinch Press, 2001
Review by Christian Perring, Ph.D.
Jan 4th 2002 (Volume 6, Issue 1)

The introductory essay to Stranger Passing by Douglas R. Nickel describes this book as a collection of portraits.  But this strikes me as misleading: although each photograph does feature one or more people posing for their picture to be taken, in an important sense, the picture is not about them.  The names of the subjects are not given in the titles of the pictures, although the occasion, place and date are given.  For example, in “A Man Heading Out to the Hightway, Casa Grande, Arizona, August 1999,” shows a man on a deserted road, half sitting, half leaning on a shopping cart containing his possessions and a twenty-four-pack of beer cans, with a beer in his hand, and, above, a dark sky promising heavy rain.  The man looks at the camera with a hint of defiance, but he looks like he has been through a lot. 

            Nickel in fact recognizes that Sternfeld’s work is a categorization of American social life rather than a set of portraits of individuals, and he makes an interesting claim.

“If the pictures reflect a growing split in this country, it is less between rich and poor than between the commodity cultures of a lower middle class and an upper middle class, America’s poor wear the T-shirts and baseball caps of the former, its rich consume the bottled water and designer labels of the latter.”

Nickel is certainly right about the ubiquity of manufacturers’ names on clothing and the spoiling of the landscape with the logos of multinational corporations, but I’m not convinced that there’s a strong cultural divide in people’s relation to commodification, or that this is a major theme in Sternfeld’s work.  Nevertheless, class is undeniably a theme of these pictures.  Rich and poor people pose in ways that are almost shockingly revealing about contemporary America.  There are people who are obviously wealthy, and at best they look complacent, at worst they look like they have sold their souls to the devil, immersed in frivolous concerns.  In stark contrast, the poor are working hard, look like that have been knocked around by life, or are more cheerful and at ease with themselves than any of the people Sternfeld photographs. 

            Class difference and the role of money and privilege in the USA are important topics, and I applaud Sternfeld’s readiness to raise the consciousness of his audience.  But the images with humor or those that catch quirky cultural oddities are my favorites.  “Boys Walking Home after School, Harrisonburg, Virginia, May 1999,” shows two boys who look like they are in junior high, in a rural suburb with carefully kept lawns and pristine streets, dressed up like inner city black youth, with baggy pants several sizes too big and portable CD player with huge headphones.  “Motorcyclists, Portland, Maine, August 1992” shows a man on a motorcycle, probably in his thirties, wearing goggles and a leather jacket; in the sidecar is a pretty baby wearing a helmet.  The image presents a warm mix of stereotypical masculinity and rebellion with nurturing manhood.  “A Woman with Her Ailing Mother on a Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Path, near Northampton, Massachusetts, October, 1999” shows an autumnal day with a fail older lady wearing a breathing tube on her face being pushed by her daughter on roller skates.  In “A Woman on an EZ Shopper Going to Her Car, Austin, Texas, March 1999,” it isn’t quite clear why she needs to get a ride to her vehicle, -- maybe she has a disability – but she looks exhilarated and proud with her large basketful of groceries.

Many of the warmest images feature relationships between two people, especially between parents and children.  Some of the pictures of individuals catch them at moments of pride or serenity that makes them seem interesting and even enviable.  There are also images of emptiness and drudgery that also are intriguing.  I moved to the US when I was 23, and I find books like this helpful when, as often happens, I try to make sense of this country.  Sternfeld does not try to give a representative view of America, but he does catch a wide variety of people at telling moments, and he does capture some of the tensions and curiosities of contemporary culture.  Even though not all the pictures have a clear focus and lack any obvious point of interest, enough of them are gripping and provocative enough to make Sternfeld an important interpreter of modern life.

© 2002 Christian Perring. First Serial Rights.

Christian Perring, Ph.D., is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Dowling College, Long Island. He is editor of Metapsychology Online Review. His main research is on philosophical issues in psychiatry. He is especially interested in exploring how philosophers can play a greater role in public life, and he is keen to help foster communication between philosophers, mental health professionals, and the general public.


Share

Welcome to MHN's unique book review site Metapsychology. We feature over 7800 in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives. We update our front page weekly and add more than thirty new reviews each month. Our editor is Christian Perring, PhD. To contact him, use one of the forms available here.

Can't remember our URL? Access our reviews directly via 'metapsychology.net'


Metapsychology Online reviewers normally receive gratis review copies of the items they review.
Metapsychology Online receives a commission from Amazon.com for purchases through this site, which helps us send review copies to reviewers. Please support us by making your Amazon.com purchases through our Amazon links. We thank you for your support!


Join our e-mail list!: Metapsychology New Review Announcements: Sent out monthly, these announcements list our recent reviews. To subscribe, click here.

Interested in becoming a book reviewer for Metapsychology? Currently, we especially need thoughtful reviewers for books in fiction, self-help and popular psychology. To apply, write to our editor.

Metapsychology Online Reviews

Promote your Page too

Metapsychology Online Reviews
ISSN 1931-5716