couple-newyork1946

1940, English, Photography

The Subway Couple: Symbolism and Legacy of Stanley Kubrick’s Photography

Have you ever seen the photograph of a couple embracing in the New York subway? It’s an iconic image that has been seen by millions of people around the world. What you may not know is that this photograph was taken by the legendary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick when he was a young photographer for Look magazine. In 1946, Kubrick visited the New York subway to capture the story of the city’s commuters, and this image is one of the most famous he took.

couple-newyork1946
Una pareja descansa en el metro de Nueva York. ©SK FILM ARCHIVES/MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

Stanley Kubrick is known for his films such as “The Shining” and “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but before he became a filmmaker, he worked as a photographer for Look magazine. The photograph we are analyzing today is one of many he took while working as a photojournalist. Although Kubrick was only 17 years old at the time, his talent for capturing emotional and symbolic moments in everyday life was already beginning to manifest.

In this article, we will analyze this famous photograph, examining its composition, symbolism, and photography techniques used. We will also explore the historical and cultural context in which the image was taken, as well as its impact on later documentary photography. Whether you’re a photography enthusiast or simply enjoy exploring the history of New York City, this article is for you. Let’s get started!

Historical and Cultural Context

To understand the meaning of Kubrick’s photography, it’s important to consider the historical and cultural context in which the image was taken.

In 1946, the city of New York was undergoing significant changes. World War II had just ended, and many soldiers were returning home after years of overseas service. The city was rapidly growing, and the New York subway was becoming an increasingly popular mode of transportation. People were beginning to adopt an urban lifestyle, and the subway had become an important place for the meeting of diverse people and cultures.

It was in this context that Stanley Kubrick decided to explore the New York subway with his camera. Documentary photography was an increasingly popular form of art and journalism in the 1940s, and Kubrick fully immersed himself in this style of photography. He sought to capture moments of people’s everyday life, and did so with a unique sensitivity to symbolism and emotion.

1940s documentary photography was influenced by the Great Depression and World War II. Documentary photographers often focused on themes such as poverty, survival struggle, and desperation. However, Kubrick chose a different approach. Through his lens, he captured the beauty and humanity of everyday life, even in such common situations as daily subway rides.

Undoubtedly, Kubrick’s photography is a testament to the energy and vitality of New York City in the 1940s. It also represents a new form of documentary photography that focused on the symbolism of simple moments in everyday life.

Photography Analysis

Kubrick’s photograph captures a hugging couple in the New York subway. At first glance, it may seem like a common scene, but upon closer inspection, numerous interesting details can be appreciated.

Composition and framing: Kubrick chose a framing in which the hugging couple occupies the center of the image. The position of the other passengers around the couple creates a sense of intimacy and isolation amidst the crowd. The composition is balanced and proportionate, with well-defined horizontal and vertical lines. The soft and diffused light gives the scene an ethereal and dreamy feel.

Symbolism and meaning of the image: The hugging couple in the center of the image is the focus of the scene. Their embrace suggests a deep emotional connection in an environment where most people are separated and even isolated. This image is a visual representation of the human need for connection and closeness. Additionally, the image also shows the diversity of people in the city of New York, a recurring theme in Kubrick’s work.

Photography techniques used: Kubrick used a technique called “soft focus” to create a sense of depth in the image. This is achieved by focusing on the main object (in this case, the couple) and blurring the surrounding objects. The result is an image that appears to have greater depth and dimension.

In summary, Kubrick’s photography is a masterpiece of composition and photographic technique. Furthermore, it is an image that goes beyond the surface to capture the emotion and humanity of everyday life.

Impact of the Photography

Kubrick’s photograph of the hugging couple in the New York subway has had a significant impact on documentary photography and popular culture.

Critical reception of the image at the time: When the image was first published in Look magazine in 1946, it received positive reception from both the public and critics. It was seen as an image that captured the essence of New York City and the diversity of its people. It was also praised for its composition and photographic technique.

Una pareja descansa en el metro de Nueva York. ©SK FILM ARCHIVES/MUSEUM OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

Legacy and influence of the photography: Kubrick’s photography has inspired many later documentary photographers to explore similar themes of everyday life and human connection. Additionally, it has influenced the way people think about documentary photography in general. Kubrick’s photography is an example of how photography can go beyond the surface to capture significant moments and emotions.

The image has also had an impact on popular culture. It has been used in advertising campaigns and on album covers, and has become an iconic symbol of New York City and documentary photography in general.

It is evident that Kubrick’s photography has had a significant impact on documentary photography and popular culture. It is an image that remains relevant today, and continues to inspire photographers and artists to explore themes of human connection and cultural diversity.

Conclusion

In this article, we have analyzed Stanley Kubrick’s famous photograph of a couple embracing on the New York City subway in 1946. We have explored its historical and cultural context, analyzed its composition and symbolism, and discussed its impact on documentary photography and popular culture.

Kubrick’s photograph is a masterpiece of composition and photographic technique, but it is also an image that goes beyond the surface to capture the emotion and humanity of everyday life. It represents the human need for connection and closeness in an increasingly isolated and fragmented world.

“Photographs are our memory, they are tangible evidence of our lives, our stories, our joys, and our sorrows.”

  • Susan Sontag

In addition, Kubrick’s photograph is an example of how documentary photography can go beyond mere description of reality to capture meaningful moments and emotions. It is also an example of how photography can be a powerful tool for expressing ideas and conveying emotions.

In conclusion, Kubrick’s photograph remains relevant today, and its impact extends beyond documentary photography to influence popular culture and the way we think about human connection and cultural diversity. Photography remains a powerful tool for capturing the essence of everyday life, and Kubrick’s photograph is an inspiring example of how photography can be used to capture emotion and humanity even in seemingly simple moments.

Caramel