Cone Heads

Cone Heads329
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2 Essays

  1. Doug McAdam | Stanford University says:

    This is, for me, an especially evocative picture. Aesthetically, the composition is a pure delight, from the jaunty angles of the revelers “cones,” to the attitudes of their bodies in relation to each other. The colors of their costumes are also so bright and vibrant against the somber gray of the Venice backdrop. But that backdrop—and specifically the contrast between the “be here now” gaiety of the revelers and the intimations of decay and mortality that are everywhere in Venice—adds depth and an elegiac feel to the image. Knowing of the all too early death of the photographer invites a final parallel. In the photo’s contrast between the “in the moment” vitality of the revelers and the impermanence of Venice, we see reflected the full arch of Rachel Tanur’s short but exceptional life.

    Finally, at the most general level, the image reminds us of what might be termed the “existential functions of the social.” Whatever else social attachments do for us, they serve at a very basic level to hold our worst existential fears at arm’s length. As Durkheim reminds us, life is never more meaningful than during periods of intense social engagement. Absorbed in the planning, anticipation, and actual events of Carnavale, the revelers temporarily banish their fears of aloneness, meaninglessness and mortality…..even as the somber backdrop of Venice reminds us of their inevitable presence in our lives.

  2. Peter Mark | Wesleyan University says:

    Carnival traditions, usually associated with Catholicism, are found in western Europe from Italy to Belgium; Carnival also exists in West Africa (Senegal, Gambia, Guiné Bissau) where it is often independent of Christianity. Both African and European traditions fed the New World, where the creole cultures of the Caribbean islands and of New Orleans gave birth to the best-known manifestations of Carnival. Venetian Carnival is the archetypal expression of Carnival in its European Catholic form. Rachel Tanur's photographs of Carnival in Venice offer a refreshingly personal, even idiosyncratic view of Carnival in the Lagoon. Composition and color, as in the marvelous "Cone heads," move us out of the everyday world. Things are aslant, not quite representative of a comfortable normality. The camera here captures the magic of a transformative masquerade.