It may not be entirely correct to call Kubrick a child prodigy. Nonetheless one can picture the confidence and strength of the young artist when, at 16 years old, he managed to sell an unsolicited picture to the highly influential publication, Look. He'd been experimenting in the family darkroom for several years at the suggestion of his parents, and early home movies reveal the seeds of their encouragement. In these movies the young Kubrick is obviously take-charge, as aware of his high stature in family and in life as his placement within the camera frame. Conscious of it or not, Kubrick is directing the action and, judging by his smile, he's having a grand old time doing it.
It's no surprise then that Kubrick could so easily spot those moments of time worth capturing in still frame. That unsolicited photograph sold to Look shows a newsvendor mourning the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt next to a newspaper headline relating it. It's fascinating for the insight that it provides into Kubrick's style – the image feels both spontaneous and posed, balancing as it does the personal act of mourning against the impersonal coldness of newsprint. Seen together these juxtaposed objects, both animate and inanimate, raise several questions. Is the vendor reacting to the news next to him, or to something or someone else? Is this an image of a man grieving for real, or is he aware of the photographer and 'acting' in a way he feels is appropriate? By that rationale, what control does the young Kubrick have over the scene? How spontaneous is it?
About Senses of Cinema:
Senses of Cinema is an online journal devoted to the serious and eclectic discussion of cinema. We believe cinema is an art that can take many forms, from the industrially-produced blockbuster to the hand-crafted experimental work; we also aim to encourage awareness of the histories of such diverse forms. As an Australian-based journal, we have a special commitment to the regular, wide-ranging analysis and critique of Australian cinema, past and present. Senses of Cinema is primarily concerned with ideas about particular films or bodies of work, but also with the regimes (ideological, economic and so forth) under which films are produced and viewed, and with the more abstract theoretical and philosophical issues raised by film study.
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