Posts Tagged ‘Louis Stettner’



Although I do enjoy the subject of stillness, the images I have posted so far for the Move Me project, are not moving me enough. I was going through some older posts in this blog and was inspired by this image I took in 2010 of two women at the market. Funnily enough I wrote about stillness in this image: “The fact that you only see part of these women plus that they are in the foreground, adds a certain stillness to this photo even though it is a busy environment. The shiny asphalt, caused by the rain helps to enhance this effect.”

I enjoy street photography, and the unexpected opportunities, and chance encounters it brings. It is challenging and fun, so I will move away from photographing objects and will focus on photographing legs of people. They can be waiting to cross the road or at a bus stop, sitting on benches in town, or anywhere else. I like how legs communicate something about a person. You can tell a lot about a person by looking at the way they stand, how they position their feet, and the clothes and shoes they wear. The images will document the fashion of the time, and this ties in with my interest in documentary photography. When there are two or more people involved, I want to show the interaction of the legs, and the relationship between the people, as can be seen in Louis Stettner’s image taken in Central Park, New York in 1997.

Louis Stettner – Central Park, New York – 1997

They are not sitting close together, are they work colleagues? The woman’s hands are pointing away from the man. The man’s hand and foot is pointing toward the woman. What does it tell you?

Louis Stettner


Louis Stettner is an American photographer born in New York in 1922 and best known for his photographs of  New York and Paris. He has photographed fleeting moments in those cities and captured the changes for more than 60 years. His subject matter is varied: people, playing children, buildings and objects in their ordinary, everyday life. His method is captured in his words: “I would take long daily walks with my camera, leaving myself open to whatever happened around me. I suppose I was driven by a great need and love to get close to the world around me.”

Stettner was a contempory of Brassaï who operated in a similar context and who inspired him. He said that Brassaï taught him to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

That he has an eye for the usually unnoticed and a sense of humour shows in this photograph of a car in New York. It reminds us of a face and the photo only shows the most important features. There is nothing in this photo that does not need to be there. The documentary value of this photo is that the content shows a beautiful designed car and that it snowed in New York in 1956.

Snowcar New York 1956

I am inspired by the way Stettner portrays the beauty and fun in the ordinariness and routine of the world around him. This shows in the photo “Foodism” I took in Amsterdam in 2009 and in the photos of the children playing. I do not know the people and children in the photos. My method is to go for a wander and let myself be surprised by what is around me, and that is how I came across these scenes. Although my photo “Children playing in Amsterdam” was taken 58 years later than Stettner’s photo taken in Paris, their form and content show great similarities.

Stettner – Children playing in Paris – 1951

Bertie Plaatsman – Children playing in Amsterdam 2009

Both photos show a boy and a girl playing in the street and both photos show action. In Stettner’s photo the boy has a scooter and the girl is spreading her arms and she is positioned slightly forward. In my photo the boy has a bike and the girl is also spreading her arms and leaning forward. The circular shape showing by the ripples in the water in my photo is similar to the gridlike structure that surrounds the tree in Stettner’s photo. To show that underneath the water is a similar gridlike structure I added my photo of the boy playing in Oosterpark below.

Bertie Plaatsman – Oosterpark Amsterdam 2005

The boy is clearly immersed in his play. Besides the cuteness however, the content is also about tension as the little bike the boy is standing on is not stable. It could easily move and the viewer is left wondering if the boy will be able to keep his balance.

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