This photograph by German émigré John Gutmann, who fled his native country as Adolf Hitler assumed power in 1933, revisits the theme of oracle consultation. Gutmann focused tightly on his subject, thereby producing an intensely intimate composition. In this instance, the Oracle, mysteriously obscured by a black lace veil, looks coolly over and past her client, whose gender is rendered somewhat ambiguous by abrupt cropping in the lower-left corner. The client’s pleading, upward stare suggests unfulfilled desire, and thus underscores the oracle’s power both to give and withhold wisdom. Gutmann frequently explored the drive and pitfalls of desire in his photography, which more typically focused on scenes of everyday life in his adopted home of San Francisco. The model for Gutmann’s “oracle” was his soon-to-be wife, Gerry von Pribosic, a talented, albeit severely troubled (and finally suicidal), artist in her own right.
narrative; portraits; drama; boys; women
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