Jane Tuckerman's black-and-white photograph Untitled was
taken on the coast of South Carolina. The photograph is mysterious
and dreamlike. It challenges the viewer to think about the scene and
ask questions about exactly what is happening in the photograph: from
where was it taken? When it was taken? Is it day or night? Winter
or summer? Reality or fantasy? There are signs of human life, but
why are no people in sight? It is easy to recognize parts of this
expansive scene: neat clusters of plump, feathery trees, a running
fence that boldly casts its shadow across the landscape, and a wedge
of sea with its waves lapping against the shore. However, the way
light hits the trees and the earth makes it appear as though there
is a snowy covering.
At first glance, it appears that the photograph is of seagulls
flying over a shore. However, the forms of the seagulls are difficult
to see. Tuckerman captured the gulls in many phases of flight; some
soar gracefully on outstretched wings, while others are shown in
awkward, strange positions. Some forms are only shadows or are blurred
and difficult to identify. The large, dark gull form looming above
the horizon line seems much too large
when compared to the other birds. Is it a bird or a shadow? Is it
flying or falling from the sky? More clearly shown is the gull on
the right edge of the photograph that seems to be suspended, hovering
The birds seem oddly close to the camera, causing questions about
how this photograph was taken. Tuckerman photographed the scene
from a bird's-eye view. Her decision
to use a bird's-eye view makes it more dramatic than if she had
photographed it from the ground. Tuckerman was in a hot-air balloon
when she took this photograph. Her aerial
view shows us more than we could see from the ground. It reveals
the limitless stretches of land, sea, and sky, as well the soft,
curving forms, and complex patterns of the landscape. The bands
of sky, water, and earth meet at the horizon and appear to stretch
forever into the distance beyond the edges of the photograph. These
elements create a diagonal movement, charging the photograph with
Strong contrasts of light and dark also
contribute to the photograph's sense of mystery. The rich blacks
of the shadows are deepened when cast against the glowing white
of the trees and ground. A thin band of soft light separates the
dark sky from the murky black water. The shapes of the gull wings
are repeated in the cloud forms. The blurred effects also help create
a sensation of movement.
Jane Tuckerman used special film and photography techniques to
acheive the mysterious effects in this photograph. Tuckerman used
infrared film, which gives the photograph
unusual effects and contributes to the fantastic mood of the image.
With infrared film, trees and grass appear white, while sky and
water look dark. Infared film gives the photograph a soft, grainy
appearance as well, which strengthens its dreamlike quality. Infrared
film was first used for scientific purposes in the 1930s. It has
a wide range of uses today, including use in criminology as an investigative
tool, in medicine, in the exploration of space, and in movies, where
it has been used to create special effects.
The appearance of this photograph is also affected by the shutter
speed, which controls the amount of time that film in the camera
is exposed to light. A fast shutter speed has the ability to "stop
action," freezing things in motion at the moment the photographer
takes the picture. A slower shutter speed increases blurring and
emphasizes motion, as shown in the bird images.
view from the sky of the landscape or objects below, same as birds-eye-view.
from above as if by a flying bird, same as aerial view.
use of opposing elements such as light and dark, large and small,
smooth and rough. Shows differences between elements such as the
light and dark parts of a picture.
line created where the sky and earth appear to meet.
special kind of film which is sensitive to infrared radiation, which
is in the spectrum of light but is not visible to the human eye.
Common photographic film records the light and dark tones of a scene
as they would ordinarily be seen by the human eye. Infrared film
records a scene with a shift in tones, which can suggest an unreal,
on a camera which regulates the amount of time the film is exposed
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