Greek Temple Newlyweds

Greek Temple Newlyweds480
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2 Essays

  1. Jeff Sheng | 2014 Third Prize Winner says:

    Two figures, dressed in black and white, appear to share an intimate moment together, seemingly unaware of the photographer Rachel Tanur. Tanur is separated from the couple both by distance and the presence of two large vertical columns that she has used to frame her subjects. The image is titled, “Greek Temple Newlyweds,” and from this we can infer the moment and place: a joyous ritual celebrated and a location that symbolizes ancient myth and creation.

    The photograph evokes the spirit of the famous art photographer Nan Goldin, who pioneered the late-twentieth century photographic aesthetic known as “personal documentary.” This practice is one where a photographer uses their own life as source material, and while the images capture something personal and specific, they also serve as allegories about common human existence. Goldin’s seminal 1986 publication, "The Ballad of Sexual Dependency," were photographs of herself, friends and lovers, as they experienced the fluid underground punk rock culture of New York City’s lower east side. And while Goldin’s photographs were very much her own visual diary, they now simultaneously exist as powerful representations of life, love and death – universal themes shared by society.

    Upon deeper introspection of Tanur’s photograph, this moment becomes much more than just a snapshot of two newlyweds. The man appears to be bracing his bride, one supporting the other. His black suit is made even darker by the brightness of her white dress, two opposing figures brought together by life. Their mutual support is accentuated by the surrounding wood scaffolding, one beam holding each one after it, a structure whose purpose is to renew the old building around them. The two slowly head towards the horizon, the mountains in the background reveal a windy path, but we are unsure what direction they will take.

    Yet the most important part of the image is Tanur’s usage of the two imposing columns that occupy the majority of the space we see. Aged and weathered, the two marble pillars mirror the couple and foreshadow the inevitable process of time passing, notably a separation brought by death. In just this one fleeting moment, Tanur brings to us this universal gesture: the old framing the new, renewal amidst deterioration, love with its back turned away from death – a powerful visual representation of what we all commonly share as life passes on.

  2. bvanzee says:

    When looking at Rachel Tanur’s photograph Greek Temple Newlyweds, it looks to be a simple picture of a newly married couple. However, upon closer inspection and analyzation, we can now see that there are multiple different aspects at play that possibly shows much deeper meanings within it. In order to find those meanings and answer the question of what this image could possibly represent, both compositional interpretation and semiology will be used.

    Compositional interpretation is a good starting point for analyzing photographs because it gives the viewer a more detailed look at what the image actually contains. The first and most prominent part of this image is the couple that is located between the two pillars. The couple is wearing black and white, which are commonly known as opposite colors. Because they are seen as opposites, they are both made significantly more visible by the other person being there. The white dress helps to bring out the black tuxedo, and the black tuxedo helps to bring out the white dress.

    Another main part of this photograph is the photographer’s decision to include the pillars in the foreground and the scaffolding in the background. The pillars indicate that the structure that the couple is walking around in is old and that the surrounding environments have taken their toll on it. The scaffolding, then, helps to reinforce the belief that the building is worn down. By including the scaffolding, the viewer can assume that the structure is being repaired for its preservation.

    Through compositional interpretation, the viewer can look closer at what the image contains. By using semiology to analyze what is contained in the image, deeper meanings can then be found. One of the first signs within this image is the couple again. The fact that they are photographed in the brightest place in the image could show that they have a bright future ahead of them. This also plays along with the vast amount of space that the viewer can see in the background of the image. That space could represent the future and the sense of hope that they could share.

    Another sign that is present in this image is the way in which couple interacts with each other. It looks as though the groom is embracing the bride. This embrace could tell the viewer that there is a sense of trust between the two, which could also be represented by the pillars that are located in the foreground. The scaffolding could also represent a building on and strengthening between them.

    In conclusion, this Rachel Tanur’s image Greek Temple Newlyweds is a great example of how a picture is worth a thousand words. Looking at this image for the first time, the viewer is able to see what the image depicts. I was led to believe that the two people shown in the photograph are a man and a woman. I believe this because people have been culturally conditioned to believe that the bride wears a white dress while the groom wears a black tuxedo. I also believe that the couple, regardless of their genders, are sharing a serene and intimate moment with one another, looking as though nobody else is around them.