Ray Metzker

I really didn’t know what to expect when going to view Metzker’s work at the Getty. To be frank, I had never heard of him – which isn’t too shocking because I haven’t heard of many photographers. I refrained from looking him up and researching him prior to my visit because I like to be surprised, especially at the Getty because it is one of my favorite museums. Entering the room I, again, didn’t know what to expect but I was quite delighted by what I saw.

I liked how the exhibit was of Ray Metzker and his journey, not just an exhibit on one of his body of works but instead a whole compilation. This was really interesting because I like to see how artists grow and where their vision might change drastically or skew minimally along the way. Metzker seemed to only have little changes instead of big ones, and even in changes you could tell the work was all from him because of his technical aspects. From my perspective, Metzker, like me, is a contrast junkie! Much of his work had strong contrast between the whites and the darks. I loved this because I happen to love this same aesthetic, I haven’t quite mastered it yet but Metzker seems to be the king. Right when I noticed his love for contrast I began to see Metzker as more of an influence and less as a school assignment.

I genuinely liked most, if not all, of his images; but I responded most to his photographs from “City Whispers.” Many reasons created a reaction from me. For one, I love the city. Growing up in the suburbs just minutes outside of one of the best cities ever, New York City, gave me an interest in the city life and a disinterest in the boring, mundane, suburb life. I think that Metzker photographed the city in an interesting way: instead of seeing all of the positives of city life, Metzker seemed to focus on the alienation and loneliness that occurs when someone lives in such a mass populated area. He shows this through his juxtaposition of (what little he photographs) the city with a lone person or a small group of people being engulfed in massive shadow. I really liked the idea. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that in such a large city you can feel the loneliest you’ve ever have. On top of the subject matter, I was immediately drawn to the lighting of the pictures. Again, he has incredible contrast. Furthermore, the lighting that he uses reminds me of a film noir type lighting (which is something I am experimenting with for my senior show). The dark shadows give a haunted feeling or even a mysterious/lonely feeling.

Two photographs really stood out for me as seen below.

ImageI love this photograph. As mentioned before, I love the contrast he has as well as the subject he is conveying. What really catches my eye is the lighting. The fact that he blacks out the woman’s face speaks volumes. For me this is saying, “Who is this woman?” We have no idea. It’s almost has if she has lost her identity while trying to make it in the big city. She is alone and yet we will never know who “she is.” In a city with a vast amount of people, there isn’t anyone special. You get lost in the sea of millions of people, all working, living, and hanging out in the same area. So who are you? It seems that Metzker is saying that in the city you are no one, or at least you FEEL like a nobody. The beauty of this photo juxtaposed with the sad, but someone true, message, really spoke to me. The whole photograph is a hit for me, starting with the lighting and ending with the message.


This photograph spoke to me for similar reasons. I find that we are seeing a similar message: that you could be surrounded by people but still be alone. This is shown through the image by grouping the people at the bus station together while choosing to show the large city space to the right – disclosing that there is no one else there. All of the people at the bus station are not only alone together waiting for the bus, but they also seem to be alone even in their group. None of them seem to be interacting – it looks as if all of them are there by themselves, catching the bus, not with a friend, but with their own being. The lighting again gives this photograph an eery film, quite like a film noir. The people are different and yet the long shadows give everyone the feeling of being the same. They don’t realize that they are all feeling the same alienation, but they are.

In the end, I extremely enjoyed Ray Metzker. The two photographs that I posted here are photographs that made me do outside research on him once I got home. I looked at even more photos from his collections and saw, as I said earlier, someone who influenced me. With the senior show coming up, I have recently decided to create film noir photographs. I find that Metzker could be the perfect person to research and study in order to understand where and how he lit his photos to give them such a haunting feel. I’m glad we were asked to go to this show, it really gave me a new artist to turn to when I’m lacking inspiration. It’s nice to see people showing off really great black and white photographs – something that I favor. Metzker accomplishes everything that I have tried to achieve – interesting themes, lots of contrast (but not going overboard), photographing people, and mastering lighting.

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