American soldiers and the Queen of the Negritos
Before we start have a look at this photo. This is a beginning of a long and fruitful career taken with her very
first camera at the age of 18 (1968, Clark Air Force Base, Philippines)
By “her” I mean one of the most successful and most recognizable
photographers of the world: Annie Leibovitz.
This post however won’t be about her it will be about this single
photograph. It must be her only early picture that stood the test of
time. I haven’t seen any other examples of her early work.
The “American soldiers and the Queen of the Negritos” shows a group of 3 American soldiers with a small black woman. To me, this photo is all about contrasts: the contrast of cultures, of old and young, big and strong versus old and frail, black and white. All these things make it a very good picture but if you look closer there is more to discover. What about the physical contact between the Queen and the soldier no 1? Why is she holding him by the wrist? (not the hand) Is it because she knows him or just senses his gentler nature? Soldier 1 is the only one looking into the camera. He is embarrassed a little by the situation-his face is unsure and he doesn’t know what to do with his right hand. He isn’t resting his hand on the belt, he is holding it. Soldier 2 is amused and is barely containing it. Soldier 3 is bored and wants the show to be over fast. The Queen is not there really; she could be looking at the horizon or a wall. She is holding the Soldier 1 with resignation of a blind person whose guide stopped to look at something. Was she “paid” to be it the photo? There is something under her arm that looks like a can of food. Leibovitz said the Negritos scavenged the garbage around the base in search of food… You can read so much in a single photograph. This is one of the marks of a good photo for me: it tells a story… I am curious if others see the same things.