NYC Bathers, by Kenneth Jarecke (1990)
Jarecke began his career in 1982 as a freelancer, covering sports for the Associated Press while still a student and football player at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 1987 and 1988, Jarecke traveled constantly, covering the tumultuous elections in Haiti, a violent I.R.A. funeral in Belfast, and the Seoul Summer Olympics. He was the most published photographer of the 1988 American presidential campaign, and his in-depth coverage of candidate Jesse Jackson earned him his first World Press Photo award.
In 1989, he became a contract photographer for TIME, whose editors were so impressed with his work that they nominated him for the International Center of Photography’s “Emerging Photographer Award.” Of these stories, the one on New York, published in September 1990 and entitled “The Rotting of the Big Apple,” attracted worldwide attention. Jarecke’s nine pages of black and white photographs dramatically illustrated the deterioration of America’s greatest metropolis and its signature picture, “Two Bathers,” won the First Prize in the World Press Photo Competition’s Daily Life category.
During the winter of 1991, TIME sent Jarecke on a three-month assignment to Saudi Arabia, where he covered the allied war effort in the Persian Gulf. In January 1992 it was awarded the Leica Medal of Excellence. It remains one of the photographic icons of the Gulf War.
Two bathers, Time 1990
This document is a black and white American city landscape photograph taken by K. Jarecke and published in 1990.
In the background, we can see NYC skyline. The horizontal line in the top part of the picture is the island of Manhattan. Skyscrapers, vertical buildings made of concrete, steel and glass are aligned along the East river.
In the middle distance, on the right, we can see a middle-aged couple, in swimsuit. They are sitting on a beach towel on an old wooden jetty, their legs dangling over water. The woman has her arms akimbo while the man is having his hands on the edge of the pontoon. We can’t see their faces, but they are probably gazing at the blurred modern and busy city.
In the foreground, we see derelict wooden piles, creating diagonal lines over the choppy grey waters.
The contrast between the old broken jetty and the distant modern city is even emphasized because of the central part of the picture, the river, like a symbolic barrier between the quiet characters and the busy concrete city they are looking at.
The photographer chose to displace the human subjects from the center, to make the cityscape and the objects more powerful. He relayed them on the right side, he shot from their back. We can wonder if the couple heard him coming, we can imagine they were not aware of his presence, and maybe they were taking or they went swimming just after that.
I appreciate this shot because it is an unusual angle of view. It’s more common to see front views than back views when there is a human subject in the picture. And it feels like the photographer was just wondering around with his camera, waiting for an interesting scene to capture.
Visit his wonderful portfolio: http://www.kennethjarecke.com/
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