Robert Polidori, Courtyard (1997). Photograph
Polidori’s photograph depicts a polychromatic scene of a residence area in Havana, Cuba. A large proportion of the background consists of the outer look of the residence buildings, such as white-bluish wall with mass areas of rust, semitransparent windows, and exposed bricks. At the top of the photograph, a small portion of high key bluish sky is presented in the middle and above the wall of the buildings. Attached to the wall at the top center of the photo are two parallel metal water pipes (maybe?), with a segment at the end of the left pipe sloping down towards the roof above the stairs. The dark wooden (or tile?) roof slopes down from the left to the right and under the roof is an area of low key greenish water-stained wall. The greenish color of the wall continues to the middle part of left side wall, connected by a cluster of green leaves of a plant. Besides, the darkness of the color of the wall increases gradually as does the darkness of the color of the roof. The two progressions of colors create a visual consistency in the photograph. On both sides, the wall of the buildings seems sloping upwards due to the effect of linear perspective. On the left side, there is a vertical stripe of low-value colored water stain, in contrast to the light color of the wall. Likewise, on the right, the low value and high intensity of the color of the eroded wooden structure contrasts against the light color of the wall. However, the two complementary colors—a dark orange and brownish color and a light bluish color—generate a harmonious visual effect. In general, there are three major colors presented in the background: a high-valued bluish white, a high-valued orange and a relatively high-valued green. The use of complementary and analogous colors creates a polychromatic scene in harmony.
Regarding the line composition, the majority of the lines in the background are geometric, and within these straight lines are vertical, horizontal and diagonal (the roof and a segment of the left water pipe). A rope hanging from the top of the left wall to the right, two ropes (or electric wires?) hanging down from the wooden structure, and the fan-shaped windows are three compositions of organic lines. Furthermore, by arranging the buildings, the roof, the stairs the wooden structure, and the little balcony on the left side wall at different levels of vertical location, Polidori creates a three-dimensional spatial visual effect. Also, in the middle area at the top of the piece, the photographer extends the space even further by including a view of the buildings behind the scene through a linear perspective.
What makes this piece more interesting is the bottom half of the photograph, which depicts the major characters, the two boys, and living plants. The value of the color presented in this half of the photo is relatively low and the intensity of the color is high; that is, the color is darker and more saturated as opposed to the light color at the top level of the piece. In this way, Polidori achieves a spatial composition by shifting the values of the colors through an atmospheric perspective because the closer the object is, the darker it is.
Polidori expresses the concept of this photograph by leaving certain objects or parts of objects vague. For example, there is a blurry contour of a lady in a white dress (maybe?) on the stairs, and she is going down the stairs with her head turning back. Also, if look closer, we can see that the contour of the two boys’ hands and arms is vague and thus we could assume that the photo was taken at the moment they were doing the poses. At this point, although these people are static, the vagueness suggests a potential of movement and makes the entire scene more active. The trees, all bending towards the left, are another factor that contributes to the movement and the liveliness of the photograph; besides, the various shapes of the leaves add more diversity to the composition of lines. In contrast, the contour of the fountain is relatively clear and there is no water flowing; therefore, it suggests a sense of calmness and stagnation.