Wednesday, September 26, 2007

"Blowup" (Redux)

Who can forget the recently-late Michaelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blowup?

It starred David Hemmings as a photographer during the heyday of London swings (like a pendulum do) who comes to believe that an innocuous photo he shot reveals something more sinister, and seeks to uncover the mystery. The story came from the pen of Julio Cortazar, a highly regarded for his book Hopscotch. (In 1981, Brian DePalma made a film called Blowout that was loosely based on the concept of the original Blowup.)

Today's New York Times carries a piece by filmmaker Errol Morris about a truly fascinating Blowup-like mystery surrounding two photographs taken in 1855 during the Crimean War by a historically-important photographer, Roger Fenton. Though it's a bit lengthy, I highly recommend it.

The gist is that Fenton shot two photos of a road in what soldiers referred to as The Valley of the Shadow of Death--a place where the Russians routinely rained cannon fire. One photo shows this lonely road littered with cannonballs, the other shows only shells in the gulleys alongside the road. Writer Susan Sontag suggested in a book that Fenton faked the photo with the cannonballs in the road, and cited expert opinion on that in order to address the inauthenticity of artists who seek to alter photos for greater dramatic effect.

Errol Morris isn't quite so certain, and investigates further, uncovering more questions along the way.

It's a sort of brain-teaser worth taking the time to read.

Until next time...


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