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202 highway off ramp
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a sign at the <br>202 highway off ramp
23-MAY-2003 photo by Jeff Knapp

a sign at the
202 highway off ramp


Ryan Sarver, Enlish 105, Prof. Tribble, Sept.20, 2005

The Pleading Eyes of a Visual Argument. by Ryan Sarver

"Need A Little Help God Bless," the rumpled cardboard reads, bleeding
shame from its owner’s hidden face. Dirty black baggy jeans and a ragged
army surplus vest melt together to form our prejudged responses to life’s
little nuisances. Not a picture from a far away down trodden place, but
right in our own backyards. You can see the promises of signs selling
dreams for cash in the lush paradise of an off Scottsdale Casino.
Loneliness drips in on this all too large wide-laned road of despair, not
big enough for this one desperate soul. "Need A Little Help God Bless,"
is all the sign says, and all that needs to be promised, for its all he
has in this forgotten fetid world. This is the argument that swells forth
in my mind when I gazed long and hard at Jeff Knapp’s skillful piece of,
dare I say, art. It is through such stark and vivid realism that such an
image can turn desolation into beauty. Through the use of his medium Jeff
Knapp is able to stunningly argue a point for the sake of his craft as
well as for the plight of humanity.

Sure I've seen the likes of these images strewn across magazines,
televisions, and newspapers, all promising redemption from a cruel fated
world. The images pressed before have captured the soul of the sufferer,
but in doing so have alienated the audience. The artistic cinematography
of old causes the audience to plunge into a sort of natural story mode
attention span, whereby they expect that the protagonist of the image’s
story is not a person like you or I, but some sort of phantasm to be
admired or pitied from a distance. This image, through the harshness of
the light, all too familiar to the Phoenician’s summer sky, captures what
I have seen day in and day out, what I have seen but never really taken
in. This is the person who stands at the intersection median, pleading
with their whole soul, without so much as a glance from passers by. As if
his hidden face doesn't say enough about the man’s desperation the rest
of his body is draped in camouflage and dark forgettable fabric. Maybe
it’s the safety of the picture, the fact that I'm not caught in the web
of give or deny, and can take in to the fullest extent the marvelous
realism of the bleak situation. I can scan every detail of his dirty
black pants and black ringed finger nails, without worrying about being a
gawking fool. It is precisely this experience that such a picture allows,
to take it all in and no longer associate the image with that of the
"other" category; and gaze long enough to see the hurt pride and
desperation native to every single person. The location itself, near a
sign for a Casino in the luxurious part of town, serves up simple ironies
that further the pitifulness of the lackluster situation. The simplicity
of the angle and the message allows the viewer to peruse the image
without being overburdened by the artisan’s overlying agenda.

Although we cannot be sure exactly what the photographer was wishing to
capture through his lens, we can appreciate the variety of experience
that emanate from an image that hits so close to home. Much like in
poetry, vague meanings and simple imagery can serve to stir up the most
elaborate stories in people’s minds; this image, in its simplicity,
serves many purposes at once. First the man himself, wearing clothing
designed to be unseen, and then on top of the attire the man is holding a
sign in front of his face both help us to remember the forgotten face of
the poor. This combined with the location near a billboard selling dreams
for cash, a play land for the wealthy, gives the image a juxtaposition of
ideals that forces the viewer into contemplating the social commentary.
With his method of capture, Mr. Knapp has assured that his message,
whether simply for the photography or a cry for some sort of social
change, will ring true. As you can probably tell from the passion in my
words this image has been a very effective argument, whether that was its
original purpose or not. It could be that the true purpose of an image of
sadness and despair is to break free from the viewer that bit of fight
that will rescue the sadness and tame the wild injustice. The true
sadness that I find with this image is the fact that it will only be
circulated on-line through the small community of, where only a
small group of photographers will be given the opportunity to experience
the passion that I did. Contact Author Ryan Sarver here

Sony Mavica FD-100 ,Sony Optical 3x / Digital Zoom 6x
1/500s f/5.0 at 11.7mm iso100 full exif

other sizes: small medium original
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