Joel Sternfeld, 'Exhausted Renegade Elephant'

Joel Sternfeld, 'Exhausted Renegade Elephant'

Joel Sternfeld (born 1944)
'Exhausted Renegade Elephant'
Woodland, Washington
C-type colour print on Kodak paper
Museum no. PH.122-1984

The Photograph

This photograph is typical of Sternfeld's photographic style. He presents the scene in a large scale, sharp focus print in unsensational, believable colour. These qualities, combined, create an image which asks the viewer to accept the veracity of the photograph. The composition of the image is such that much extraneous information is shown at the edges of the main event: the recapturing of the collapsed elephant and the human commotion around it. In doing so, he is visually understating the event, making its incongruous and humorous quality more prominent within the wide framing of the scene.

The Photographer

Joel Sternfeld has produced photographs of inhabited American landscapes since the late 1970s, using a large viewfinder camera with 8x10 inch negatives or colour transparencies. His photographs sometimes have an unsettling quality; there is often a humorous or disjunctive element within the scenes, something to remind us of the oddities of modern life. Sternfeld travels through America, sometimes on year-long projects, coming across events en route. In his series 'On This Site' (1992-3), Sternfeld photographed scenes of crimes. There is usually nothing precise in these photographs that refers to the crime, simply a written statement about the incident to accompany the photographs. However, the unsettling quality of Sternfeld's work creates a strong sense of the crime's presence.

Processes and Techniques

This is a colour photograph printed on Kodak paper. It is called a C-type print because the photograph is printed from a colour negative.


This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 14.