Migrant Worker 2 by Peter Liepke

I was running some errands on Monday morning before heading to the tire shop to replace the tires on my vehicle. I stopped by Best Buy to drop some old cell phones in their recycling bins when I decided to head over to Barnes and Noble to pick up a photography magazine to read while waiting for the tires. As so happens I picked up a copy of Silvershotz. This is one of many fine art magazines out there and one with which I was not quite familiar.

It was in the current (Volume 6 Edition 1, International) issue that I first spotted the work of Peter Liepke. At first I wasn’t sure if these were photographs in these pages as there seemed to be no focus in the images whatsoever. I learned that the images were mostly gum bichromate prints. This process was developed in the 19th Century and gives a very painterly look to the photograph. The images I am discussing today was printed using this process.

Migrant Worker 2 by Peter Liepke

What can I say about the composition here other than it seems to be perfect? The sky, earth, and person all have an appropriate sense of scale, where the earth is bigger than the man and the sky is bigger than both put together. With the man all alone in the field, we can see the enormity of the task before him. Holding his tools he is looking down and focused on what needs to be done. Although the clouds appear overhead, through them we can see the rays of sun shining down on the man. It suggests that although his labors are hard and long, his reward awaits him in Heaven.

These elements all compete for attention, but no one element overpowers the other. The loneliess of the worker is telling. I have to admit that I myself am ignorant of the mind of a migrant worker, but here the image suggests a loneliness felt. Perhaps he feels forsaken? That could explain why his back is turned to the rays of light. Or perhaps he is so focused on his task that he fails to take notice of the beauty behind him? There are countless theories as to why this is. Here through the whole image there is more clarity than in some of Liepke’s other images, but nowhere is the image tack-sharp. This makes the image almost surreal, as to suggest that while we know about migrant workers and how hard they work, as mere observers we can never know truly their life experience, which is the reason we will never know why his back is turned on the sky.

In the Silvershotz article Mr, Liepke discussed some of his philosophy. In general he is against the current trend of showing vulgar and bleak scenes that highlight the failures of society and individuals. He sees himself as more a detached observer who wants to record the inherent beauty, and to show what could be instead of what is. Most of all, he wants to instill an inspiration with his work. With this image, while he shows a reality, there is an inspiration that can be gained.

I’m going to admit right away that this wasn’t my first choice from Liepke’s body of work to critique. My first choice was an image entitled “Poet’s Walk”. Unfortunately, that image is not found on his website and the only copy I could find on the web was less than satisfactory. But this image struck me. The balance of the tones and composition could not be ignored. All in all this is a beautiful image that could easily find itself amongst a collector’s favorites.

Anyone have any thoughts or ideas on this particular image?

Loading Facebook Comments ...