I observed a very unique series of photographs by Vik Muniz called Seeing is Believing. Vik Muniz’s images are not simply photography but are pictures of complicated pieces of art he has produced at earlier times. Utilizing an array of unorthodox materials including granulated sugar, chocolate syrup, sewing thread, cotton, wire, and soil Muniz first creates an image, sculpturally manipulates it and then photographs it. Muniz’s pictures include portraits, landscapes, x-rays, and historical images.
One work that particularly caught my attention was a photograph called “Big James Sweats Bullets” from the series Sugar Children. The content or subject matter of the artwork is representational. The photograph depicts the hardworking children of sugar cane plantations in South America. This particularly photo is a portrait of a dark skinned boy, slightly overweight, standing and grinning. The photo is of neatly arranged granulated sugar across a piece of black paper which produces the image of the boy.
Many different sensory properties compose the artwork. There is a soft light that seems very natural coming off the boy’s face. The light shines at the boy’s face at an elevated level, as if he were outside on a hot afternoon with the sun overhead. There is a wide range of tones from very bright, in the reflection off the boys cheeks to very dark in the skin of the boys face. Muniz does an excellent job using shadows to provide a feeling of depth and adding curves to the boys body and face. The shape of the boy is positive, but the background is not defined, allowing a negative shape or void in the picture. Although there is no actually texture on the photograph the texture from the original work of art is apparent. The use of sugar gives off a hazy effect preventing the photo from having a clear focus.
The portrait of the boy has a frontal vantage point with his body centered and balanced on at all angles. This shows the expression on the boys face and the size of the boys body, which is important to the title of the work. When looking at the photograph the eyes are immediately drawn to the boys face and grin.
I chose this piece of art in particular because of the strong emotional message it sent to me. You could sense the hard work and labor the children experienced at these plantations. You tend to feel sorry for this child when considering what he must go through. What I enjoyed must about this photo was Muniz’s use of symbolism. The fact that he produced the image of a sugar cane working boy with actual sugar was both impressive and significant.