Unsurprisingly this image drew some polar responses when I posted it on a number of forums yesterday. It also drew an astonishing number of viewers relative to the number of responses it generated. I wonder what that means?
I have some thoughts about this image:
1. The title might be insensitive. But I wonder if this sort of image Is a screed or a scripture? Is this what happens when nuance disappears? Does the word, "propaganda" spring to mind? Or is your first thought, "compassion"? This image is not subtle, it forces you to review something other than the craftsmanship or aesthetics. No responder on any forum.... and this is very unusual... commented on the palette, the symmetry, the composition, or some photographic element that should or should not be there.
2. This picture was not taken in North America. That's important since so much of the rest of the world enjoys thinking that North America is a place that went from barbarism to decadence without ever passing through civilization. This is a normal scene on the streets of many cities outside of North America but not, as far as my experience tells me, here.
3. It is possible that this person is a con-artist. It is possible that this person is part of a ring of people who are sent out onto the street each morning by "managers" who use them as some sort of human signs, as compassion triggers, and that the handlers actually collect most of the money. It is possible that this is a form of extortion against cities and people who are quite compassionate but that these handlers hope to humiliate them to tourists by displays like this.
4. It is possible that this babushka wearing, skirted person is a burly man.
5. Speaking of craft. I wanted to suggest "bustle" here along with an essential lack of urban impersonality. I wanted to express motion, and crowds and a clear cityscape. And of course I wanted to reinforce the pathos which the figure is enacting.
6. One morning before sunup I came upon a group of tough looking guys in pricey leather jackets arranging these beggar people on the streets. Concern for my immediate health kept me fro taking pictures of them as they barked orders at the beggars placing them carefully into pathetic poses and dropping their tiny tin cans into just the right positions to complete the tableaus. Their language was not Italian neither was it French or Spanish. I'm guessing the tough guys grab a big piece of whatever people donate to these figures. I'm guessing that most Italians are aware of what's going on. Why it's tolerated, I have no idea.
It is also probable that at this time of year this image is an iconic voice for a significant number of people who face the same Christmas spirit as the rest of us. It's with that probability in mind... that I posted it.