Clarence Laughlin Essay, Research Paper
Clarence John Laughlin was born in 1905 in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He lived on a plantation near New Iberia. He attended high school for one year in 1918 due to the death of his father. He then worked at many jobs from 1924 to 1935. Laughlin s interests were with the writings of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, and the French Symbolists. They inspired him to write poems and stories. In 1934 he began to take photographs. His first one-man show was held, in 1936, at the Isaac Delgado Museum, New Orleans. Laughlin spent one year taking fashion photographs for Vogue magazine. He specialized in color photography during World War II. Since 1946, Laughlin worked as a freelance photographer of contemporary architecture. He published his photographs in a book called Ghosts Along the Mississippi in 1948. Following this, he lectured and had many publications and exhibitions displaying his work. From about 1970 on Laughlin concentrated on writing about his photographs and the world of fantasy. He died in 1985.
Laughlin went through a great many style changes in his photographs. Only a few will be looked at and discussed. During his early career, he focused on taking pictures involving glass. He was fascinated with glass because it acts so variably and subtly with light: offers so many suggestions that so-called reality is not the simple thing we usually conceive it to be: that reality embodies many planes and many kinds of meanings . Laughlin believed that it gave off a magic quality . He also was drawn to taking pictures of the old, desolate and worn down buildings of New Orleans. Laughlin felt that these buildings, due to their appearance, were lost in time . He treated them as psychological and poetic documents and not as ordinary historical pieces of architecture. He brought them meaning. During his mid career he began to perform color experiments. Laughlin believed that there are a great many more relationships between paintings and photography than are recognized and he explored the fine line that existed between the two arts. He experimented with watercolor and oil on photographic collages and also with different dyes. Finally, during his late career he had set his interest on taking photographs of American Victorian architecture. He took these photographs to show how important that period of time was architecturally, to discover the material used from this period, and to show that the American Victorians had made some important discoveries which enabled them to understand the importance of fantasy and decoration in architecture. During the course of years Clarence Laughlin spent taking photographs, his subject matter would change, but his ideas behind his photos involving the world of fantasy and dreams remained untouched. Every new focus was an attempt to further discover his ideas and thoughts on that untouchable world. His images were poems, all possessing some deep, symbolic meaning.
One of Laughlin s photographs that caught my interest was titled The Masks Grow to Us. It is a portrait of a woman, which cuts right below her shoulders. Her dark hair and clothing consist of little to no detail. A part of her beaded necklace can be seen. She is looking off in the distance. In the background there appears to be a brick wall with vines growing on it. The image of the woman seems to be a cut and paste. Half of the woman s face is covered with a picture of a statue of a woman and the other half is exposed and was shifted to create the image of two eyes where only one should be.