Set Title: Stephen Hawking
1978 Portrait by John Hedgecoe – Stephen Hawking – scientist – Stephen William Hawking CH, CBE, FRS, (born 8 January 1942), is considered one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists. Hawking is the Lucasian Professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge (a post once held by Sir Isaac Newton), and a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Despite enduring severe disability and, of late, being rendered quadriplegic by motor neurone disease (specifically, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also called Lou Gehrig’s disease), he has had a successful career for many years, and has achieved status as an academic celebrity.
Pictured here with his first wife Jane and children Robert and Lucy
Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne
In the photograph, “Country Girls,” 1925, two sturdy blond girls stand stiffly before the camera holding hands and wearing identical dark dresses and watches. It seems safe to assume they are sisters, so closely do they resemble each other in appearance, expression and manner. Indeed, their similarity and closeness is as disquieting as a Diane Arbus photograph, for their dark dresses visually give the impression of one large shape with two heads emerging from it.
The two girls in this photograph face the camera in a vague imitation of traditional posing principles. Their interlocking hands provide the emotional core of the image, compensating for their inability to make eye contact with the camera and with one another.
For the final section of People of the Twentieth Century, in which this portrait is found, Sander photographed “idiots, the sick, the insane, and the dying.” Whether single figures or groups, indoors or out, these “last people” are presented in the same uncompromising way that he approached his other subjects. Remarkably, Sander never let his work devolve into a clinical exercise, but instead imbued it with a sense of engagement with and respect for his subjects. Together the photographs illuminate the cyclical nature of Sander’s project, whereby in dying one returns to the earth and so the cycle begins anew.
“Documentary photography isn’t so much about the fulfillment of aesthetic rules pertaining to outer form and composition as it is about the significance of that which is portrayed.”
“One can snap a shot or take a photograph; “to snap a shot” means reckoning with chance, and “to take a photograph” meaning working with contemplation – that is, to comprehend something, or to bring an idea from a complex to a consummate composition.”