The Barrister Fall 2017 - 17

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a human presence would also be included
in that group, such as Untitled No. 19,
which rather eerily shows a figure in a net
or meshing through which the silhouette
of a seated figure can be seen, and Untitled
No. 75, which shows a shadowy image
of a person on a tilted chair that is seen
through branches and twigs. While I
found such photographs to have been
somewhat discomfiting, I also found them
to have been strangely intriguing.
Elder's portraiture works, and the
balance of his street photography, fall
within the former category that I set forth
in the preceding paragraph. The portraits'
subjects, who appear to have been posed,
are all interesting figures. Untitled No.
22 depicts Assistant Public
Defender Richard Joyce,
who is wearing a jacket. He
is standing near a reflective
surface, and has a pensive look.
The split-figured nature of the
photograph complements what
is, perhaps, the torn nature
of the subject's thoughts.
In Untitled No. 25, Elder
presents a woman in profile
who appears to be in her
middle years. Her left hand is
raised to the lower left side of
her face, and she appears to
have the glimmer of a smile.
This portrait is one of the
two photographs that I can
recall that depict a smiling
person. The other photograph,
discussed below, is depicted
in a different, and disturbing
manner.
I found Elder's Street
Photography to have been of
particular interest. I would
like to discuss briefly several
photographs in this regard
before concluding this article
with additional observations
and a suggestion for the reader. Untitled
No. 1 frames the shadows of a man and
a woman against a brick wall as they are
walking. This pair appears to be a couple,
and the photograph, perhaps because
of all of the shadows, conveys a sad, yet
touching scene. In Untitled No. 8, two
fascinating juxtapositions are presented.

Two African-American men are separated
by a storefront. The man to the viewer's
left is well dressed in jacket and tie, and
appears to be smiling at the camera from
inside the store. The man on the viewer's
right is much more casually clad, and
sitting hunched over on some object. The
sociological and societal elements of this
scene are poignant.
A somewhat similar scene is presented
in Untitled No. 59, wherein an older
Black man, who appears from his clothing
to be homeless, is standing in front of
the window of a jewelry store, while to
his right, on the other side of a column,
stands a White police officer. Neither
appear, to be aware of the other. Again,

the assemblage of people and objects in
the captured scene commands attention.
Untitled No. 60 is another riveting
example of Elder's eye for sociological
visual dichotomy. Leaning against a
building is a young man who is wearing
a cap with the brim toward the back.
He is holding a poster on which appears

the image of a fetus with its thumb to
its mouth. Against the building, on the
pavement, and below the image just
described, is a sign in bold capital letters:
ABORTION IS MURDER! The young
man is smiling as he looks down upon a
toddler who is standing on the sidewalk
and looking up at him. The scene depicted
in this photograph is simultaneously
searing, ironic, dichotomous, and arresting.
It is intriguing to the eye, and challenging
to the intellect. In my estimation, it is one
of the best photographs that I saw in this
exhibit, and it is illustrative of the genius of
John Elder.
Recently, I asked John Elder how,
if at all, his photography informed his
practice of law. He replied that
photography has had a huge
impact on his law practice.
He wrote: "Photography and
printing photographs takes me
totally away from the pressures
of criminal law. I am totally
focused (pun intended) on solely
shooting or printing. What I do
in photography requires total
concentration and awareness of
my environment." He goes on to
state that this is especially true
regarding street photography
where he is trying to capture a
fleeting moment in time. "My
street photographs tell a story
(a nod to Rod Stewart)." Elder's
keen eye, and his ability to tell
a story, are apparent to anyone
who sees his photography.
His genius lies not only in
his technical skill in taking
a photograph, of whatever
category, but also in his ability to
elevate that photograph into an
artistic form that is both visually
and conceptually elegant.
Before concluding, I would
beg the reader's indulgence so
that I might offer a suggestion. In this
regard, I would return to the opening
of this article wherein I spoke of our
inattention to our surroundings. What
do we notice in any particular place or
activity? How much do we miss every day
in this regard? How might improvement
in this area be achieved? I would suggest
Continued on page 18
Fall 2017 | 17


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The Barrister Fall 2017

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