Sandrine Hermand-Grisel

Photo Editor - Photographer
All About Photo
    All About Photo presents 'The Lives of Others' by Meg McKenzie Ryan by All About Photo  
All About Photo presents 'The Lives of Others' by Meg McKenzie Ryan
Location: San Diego, CA
Nationality: French
Biography: Sandrine Hermand-Grisel is a professional photographer who specializes in Fine Art Photography and Printmaking. She grew up in Paris, France and in London, UK before she moved to the United States with her family in 2006. She decided to use her... MORE
Events News
All About Photo presents 'The Lives of Others' by Meg McKenzie Ryan
all about photo
Mar 15, 2024
Summary
Part of the exclusive online showroom developed by All About Photo, this exhibition is on view for the month of March 2024 and includes twenty photographs from the series ‘The Lives of Others’

Producing a round photograph can be a little troubling for some viewers. People are not used to that shape. Please let us explain how that shape happened.

There are photographers who focus closely on the person or people they are shooting, such as Richard Avedon, a great photographer. Since he used a large format camera, and he made large prints, every detail is quite clear. He used a plain white background. Freckled faces, a spot on a shirt from a recent meal, wrinkles, etc. contribute to the fascination viewers can experience.

However, Meg is trying for something different.

Meg shoots an 8" x 10" format field camera. Instead of using a lens for an 8" x 10" camera, she uses a 4" x 5" lens. Since the small lens doesn't cover the entire sheet of film, and the lens is round, the resulting images are round and very wide angle.

The reason for this choice is she wanted to try to understand the culture.  She believes that people are at least partially influenced by their environment. Small things such as a roll of toilet paper sitting on a television in an otherwise perfectly neat living room says the bathroom is not under the same roof. Children crowd around a shoot watching the action, but they become part of the action. Mothers supervise the shoot which also makes them part of the action since they are at the edge of the photos.

Meg chose to shoot in the poorer neighborhoods of Mexicali, Mexico, the capital city of the state of Baja California. With over a million residents, the possibilities were enormous. Residents hardships were visible. Meg lived a few miles north of the Mexicali border in the lower desert of California, USA. The summers there last roughly seven months, and daytime temperatures during several of those months are almost always over 115 degrees F. Nights get down to 90-plus degrees F. In addition, major earthquake faults run through the area, and roughly every ten years or so, a large earthquake hits causing some buildings to crack or even crumble.

Meg would drive to a neighborhood in Mexicali, stop near some action going on, take her fully-open camera (bellows pulled out), and ask if it would be OK if she shot a picture. People never turned her down. Meg's Spanish was very limited, and this made it easy to let people choose who and/or what would be in the picture. Babies were a common choice. Dads hugging their sons. Friends smiling. A much-loved dog was a priority of one young boy.

The photos edges are just as important as the central subject. This is where mothers would stand, arms crossed (sometimes sternly), supervising. Children not chosen by their parents to be in the photo are standing nearby watching. Major cracks in the stucco of some homes, or wood shoring up a patio or home, beds just inside the front door, are all interesting and contribute to the overall photo. The excessive heat in the summer was the hardest time of year for Mexicali residents. Some, not all, had swamp or evaporative coolers which helped a little, especially if it wasn't humid.

The details make the photos rich with information and meaning. And they require a good long look to experience the full impact of them. Hopefully viewers will do that.

Meg McKenzie Ryan - The lives of others
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