Cuba: Campo Adentro by Susan S. Bank
A doctor and his patient. Bare clapboard walls. A donkey. A bed and headboard with a couple of bundles of something unknown. Wait . . . a donkey?
I've looked at this image for a considerable amount of time and I'm not sure I can yet determine precisely what is the subject of the photograph — and that is partly why it so fascinates me. Perhaps the subject is the moment. Perhaps it is the two pairs of hands in mid-gesture. Or, is it the donkey? Is it the donkey's apparent concern for the patient? Is it the parallel between the gaze of the doctor and the gaze of the donkey?
Layer after layer, we peel the proverbial onion and find more and more questions. Just what is in the bundles on the headboard? Are they bundles, or are the cabbages? I'm not too sure. And that solitary object to the left of the bundles — is it another bundle, or something else?
And then there is the obvious question as to the patient's malady. Then, is the doctor diagnosing with this touch or curing by touching?
Photography tends to be a fact-giving thing. Cameras record, film receives, details are preserved. When a photograph presents us with questions as this one does, it is not a function of the camera but rather a function of the photographer's eye. Perhaps I'm just a sucker for these kinds of images, but I'm irresistibly drawn to images that ask more questions than they answer. I think they teach us more about what we see than mere factual photographs.
Then again, perhaps this is more a way of looking at photographs than anything else. Why peppers? Why thirty peppers? Why this particular pepper? I've been doing this my entire photographic life. So, looking at this image by Susan S. Bank, I can't help but ask questions — and she, I think, understands this by not providing too many answers. It encourages us to look with more than a passing glance. That's a fine gift she has given us — and in return we can spend time with her photograph as our gift back to her.
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