131 – Habeas Corpus

This time it was different. It began with the Story of the Day, and that is The New York Times‘ coverage of the decision of the federal appeals court regarding constitutionality of the recent law that denies foreign prisoners’ challenges to their detention at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Yes, I suppose there are people at Guantánamo who deserve to be at Guantánamo. Still, it is at least very likely, that this is not the case for all of them. But even if it were so, why on earth should the right to appeal against detention be denied? If the US government are so sure about their actions, is it not a given, that no court could decide against their righteous judgment? There is nothing to fear, is it? But that’s obviously not the case. There is only one explanation, and that is, they are not at all sure.

After reading this story, I began to think about a suitable image. Note that this is the first time that one of my Images of the Day is made to match a given topic. It’s interesting and I should do it more often.

I imagined a fence, maybe the one around Volksgarten, viewed from a very flat angle, the bars almost overlapping, and a hand trying to reach through. At noon I tried to realize it. I used the Sigma 30/1.4 and soon found out that using my own hand would be rather difficult, thus I stopped down a young man and asked him to lend me a hand. I tried some shots, but was not at all satisfied.

Thinking about it brought me to the conclusion that the fence was wrong. I tried the one not facing Ringstraße but Heldenplatz, and that was more after my taste. In the meantime I was alone again, nobody suitable was in reach, thus I got back to using my own hand.

The final image, one of maybe 10, was indeed taken with the Sigma 30/1.4 at f1.4. I had tried the ultra-wide as well, but in the end the shallow depth of field won.

The Song of the Day is Tom Verlaine’s “Cry Mercy Judge” from the Album “Flash Light“. Excellent stuff. By the way, should it make me nervous that the lyrics to a song, that I bought while being on university, are served from a site called oldielyrics.com?

3 thoughts on “131 – Habeas Corpus”

  1. Okay… this is the third time I’ve returned to this image. There are, for your photography, two unusual items here. First you have a human being present… or at least part of one. And secondly the soft fattness of the hand interworking with the hard precision of the stone and iron.
    I like it that you frequently dabble in the surreal – in full color. You do not hide behind an “artsy” veil of monocrhome to play with ideas that flitter just beyond the grasp of a picture’s frames.
    This capture reminds us that there is a world in the gutters between pictures. In fact all but the tiny snatch you display exists there. I like it that I wonder who owns this disembodied hand. I like it that I wonder why it is so strangely posing. I like it that it is lit very much like a dead fish – or an almost-corpse.
    I like it that I wonder. We don’t do that enough.

    Thanks for sharing,

  2. Oh goodness, thanks for all the nice things you say about my right hand 🙂

    It is not the best realization of the concept I had in mind, but it was definitely the best I could do in half an hour. I had not intended this image as being surreal, but of course you’re right, there is a surreal feeling to it. Funny how things sometimes go their own way.

    Thanks for commenting,


  3. I viewed this image after reading your lament about not getting any comments on it in the following day’s post, then read the narration on this image. BTW, now I know why you got yourself that 30/1.4 — would have been tricky to frame your own hand held though the bars with a telephoto lens in the other hand. But then again, it would have looked so stupid that it had drawn the attention of potential hand donors to the scene. But we know there’s more than one way to do it… 😉

    Anyway I decided to spice up your stats a bit, so here we go:

    Upfront: This is not one of your best images IMHO, not because it’s not a good photograph, but because you lay the bar quite high with what you produce on other days. Technically I don’t see any problems, except maybe a slight overexposure on the back of your hand, and it being somewhat magenta-ish but that might as well be my ill-calibrated CRT.

    But the image doesn’t really convey your intention. A you wrote yourself, none of those you asked had any impression of imprisonment when looking at the image, neither did I, not even after reading the story going along with it. Why is that?

    First, it isn’t obvious you’re reaching through the fence. Also, when imagining a captive trying to reach out, we’d not just see a hand, we’d probable see the whole arm being stretched though the bars. The hand also does not grab at anything, in fact it looks more like the fingers where stretching instead of grabing. It’s easy to realize this shot was taken at the streets and not in a prison setting, the base of the bars just doesn’t look like one would expect from prison bars. They’re decorative, not functional. Aiming higher, and omitting the stone altogether might have worked better towards your intention. Another thing that spoils the “reaching though”-notion is that the little finger is at the opposite side of the bar as the rest of the fingers. You wouldn’t do that naturally if you wanted to reach out through the fence, but you’re not grabbing the bar either. This is disturbing me, BTW, regadless of the intention you described. I can’t say why but I dont like it, it’s just arkward.

    All in all, it’s a good idea for a shot, that simply fell a bit short because you had to use your own hand, and anyone who’s tried to use one’s own bodies’ parts in a photo knows it’s not easy to do and most of the time doesn’t work out. So, if you care to try the shot again, I’d be glad to lend a hand… 😉


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