Figure Head by Clarence John Laughlin (1941)

The photograph “Figure Head,” taken by Clarence John Laughlin in 1941, is a black and white image featuring a person’s upper body emerging from what appears to be a broken wall or structure. The person is gazing upward with an intense or contemplative expression. Their arm is extended and resting against the rough textured surface of the wall. The background consists of a cloudy sky, which contributes to the dramatic atmosphere of the image. In the middle ground, there is an arched window that is part of the same dilapidated building, through which the sky is visible, enhancing the sense of decay and abandonment.

The striking contrasts between light and dark, the sharp details of the ruined architecture, and the foreshadowing sky in combination with the person’s pose create a surreal and haunting quality that’s typical of Laughlin’s work, which often explores themes of decay, memory, and the passage of time through the Southern Gothic aesthetic.

Other Photographs from Clarence John Laughlin

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