I was looking at a website today that was doing a series similar to my “Ten Favorite Photographs for 2012,” and I came across André Kertész , “La Fourchette, 1928” or in English, “The Fork.” Please click on the hyperlink and have a look. It was interesting to me because I had actually considered this for my 2012 list. It is certainly, one of Kertész’s most famous works and as an abstraction pretty perfect and wonderful. It defines all the right elements of a well composed and well executed black and white image. There’s black and there’s white and there’s beautifully everything in between. Then we see a well and interesting use of the “Golden Rule of Thirds.” The objects are contrasted with their shadows, which in the case of the bowl forms a concentric circle. The fork creates a marvelously strong diagonal line and presents a fantastically well done metallic sparkle. The image is well designed and cries out “simplicity.” And in a high resolution copy you can read the letter on the back of the fork. The sharpness is intriguing.
I have read a bit of a “tongue and cheek” discussion of what it all means. And I respect the expression, indeed I practice, the exploration of why the piece personally moves one. But here ultimately it is like the old adage about over Freudian interpretation. Sometimes a pencil is just a pencil, or in the present case a fork is a fork.
But something does bother me. Something is incongruous. And the problem is that the viewer, or a least this viewer, feels a bit like the chess master, who sees a board set up as a display and realizes viscerally and immediately that the position of the pieces could never have evolved. What exactly is going on here? Why is the fork teetering on the edge of the bowl? Generally forks are associated with plates and spoons with bowls. My mother would have insisted that the fork be placed tines up on the left hand side in anticipation of dinner. And if dinner has already taken place then it would be rude to tangle one’s fork at the edge of the bowl, or so my mother taught me. And finally, if dinner has already taken place, then why are both the fork and the bowl pristine and shining? Puzzle me all of this!
So we are left, I believe, with two options either reject these incongruities and reject the picture, or accept them and conclude that they give the picture a sense of the dynamic a sense of motion.