Snap The Whip

As photographers, we often have a tendency to become technicians vs artists. I think it is important that we study the work of the great painters – in addition to the great photographers – to keep ourselves well-rounded. I decided I would periodically post a blog entry about a painter or painting. I’m starting with one of my favorite American artists of the 19th Century – Winslow Homer and his classic “Snap the Whip.”


As photographers, we are often hoping to tell a story with our images. This painting, done in 1872, is a fantastic example of storytelling. The children are playing a game called “snap the whip” where they try to keep their hands connected while they spin and snap the “whip” at the end. The painting came out at a time when little red schoolhouses, like the one in the background, were slowly starting to disappear across the country. It captures a slice of life that tells us how things were. This type of sentimental storytelling is a key component in creating an image that will stand the test of time and be admired for years to come. Although we have technology that allows us to capture more precisely what the scene looks like – it will always take an artist to show us what something “felt” like.

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