What the Photographer Sees — Meet Ulvis Alberts
Take a look at this photograph and tell me — what comes to mind … what does it represent .. who this is … what year it was taken … and any other guesses you might possibly have.
I want to tell you about a photograph that was taken by a good friend of mine. This is that photograph (see above). There’s a story behind it. I’ll get to that in a moment.
I ask you not to rig any Google software that might come up with the answer to this query. I’m trusting in your honesty and integrity and the spirit of things here.
So, the question is: Take a look at this photograph and tell me — what comes to mind … what it represents .. who this is … what year it was taken … and any other guesses you might possibly have.
There’s an important point I’ll make here in the next post about gratuitous luck which means being at the right place at the right time, genuine artistry, creativity, history, and how we look upon imagery not only at the moment but upon reflection. I have spent some time thinking about what this image means and how aspirational the hands reaching out to something or someone or some hope comes to reflect all of the needs and desires and elusive “rights” that we are entitled to.
Earlier, I posted a photograph and asked readers to examine it and then take guesses as to its subject matter and origin. The guesses were very good, and a few readers even got the answer correct (posted to Facebook).
This photograph was of Robert F. Kennedy taken in 1968 by the Latvian-American artist Ulvis Alberts from the series Camera as Passport. It was taken by Alberts in Seattle shortly before he was assassinated that same year. In the late 60s, Alberts traveled the world and created a range of extraordinary photographs, which consisted of portraits of music legends such as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix but also political figures including Robert F. Kennedy, who is shown here during a public appearance surrounded by enthusiastic supporters.
I stumbled upon the photo while looking over Ulvis Alberts’ website, which has many of his photos over the course of six decades. What touched me most about this particular photo is that when he developed the shot, he clipped the original photo and simply showed the hands. Look more closely at those hands, of Kennedy and particularly those who hope to touch him. Those are hands are hope. Those are hands of dreams. Perhaps they are hands of desperation. A cynic might insist those hands are merely the extensions of our mass obsession with celebrity. There’s probably some truth in that, also.
But what’s revealing here for me is the ART of the image and the POWER of the image. It’s art as a STATEMENT. Most photographers –and certainly all media– would photograph faces. That’s a conventional path. However, Alberts saw the story and the truth, and the poignancy was a few feet below the faces, with the hands.
I think that’s the way it is with many things. We are drawn to familiarity. We focus on comfort zones. But the real happenings are often outside the frame.
Ulvis Alberts turned 80 earlier this year. I know he’s on Facebook. He’s even sent me many of his B/W photos by mail, which he signed. I proudly display some of them in my home.
Here’s my short tribute to Alberts the artist for seeing things just a little differently and then letting us share those images and memories.
[Side Note: I’m not a fan of RFK, and this post is not intended to boost the Kennedy mythology. My interest in the subject matter here is purely through an artistic prism.]