The Sciences

Carefully arranged

Cosmic VarianceBy Daniel HolzSep 21, 2010 12:37 AM

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I opened the New Yorker last week to find a full-page photograph by a friend of mine, Kate Joyce. The photo graces the issue's Fiction piece: "An Arranged Marriage", by Nell Freudenberger. It's a good story, and the photo is surprisingly relevant. It turns out that the New Yorker puts out requests to a group of photographers, giving an abstract description of the sort of photo they have in mind. The photographers do not get to read the story. In this case, the descriptive fragments included: "A woman is covering part of a photograph of a man's face with her hand (so that only the blue eyes and blond eyebrows and forehead were visible or covering everything but the nose)", "symbolic/conceptual image of a wedding/marriage", "red sari", and "American wedding dress". Kate was intrigued, and came up with the beautiful and unsettling image you see. The man's face, which at first I took to be reflected in a mirror, is actually a photograph (as in the story). The ambiguity makes the image all the more compelling. Some of the other photos submitted for the piece can be viewed here. I also highly recommend a visit to Kate's website, where there are many arresting images (including ones from both Santa Fe and Chicago, two of my favorite cities). This New Yorker issue includes articles about Francis Colins [the Christian True Believer who heads up the National Institutes of Health] and Steve Coll [a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, arguing for a more nuanced and immediate engagement with Pakistan]). But I found Kate's photo to be the highlight. Love, mystery, globalism, family, poverty, and the dream of a better future. All in one image.

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