Mr. Kramer, King of Hardware


This photo of Mr. Kramer is one that really uses leading lines in order to draw a viewer’s eye right to the focus: the adorable and dutiful Mr. Kramer. The lines of the shelves stretching toward the back are angled toward Mr. Kramer, situated in the center of the composition. The background is cluttered, but blurred and Kramer remains in focus. I felt the blurring effect also contributed to a sense of action and movement in the photograph. The way Kramer’s arms are arranged make me believe he is in the process of walking (or shuffling) down the isle. His red cap, which becomes sort of “signature” throughout the photo essay also grabs my eye. It is amazing to me that Mr. Kramer is responsible for dealing with the overwhelming amount of boxes and supplies in the background, and in fact, knows where everything is. After seeing this image and reading about Mr, Kramer’s meticulous attention and dedication to the hardware store, I was surprised to learn that he lives in a group home for people with developmental disabilities. Because he was portrayed as being so knowledgeable and punctual at the hardware store, and looked to be completely physically capable (despite being elderly), I am confused as to why he is living in such a home. Perhaps he is a savant of sorts? Or maybe living at a home for people with developmental disabilities is an alternative to living at a home for the elderly.

Finally, this photo essay appealed to me overall because I have a soft spot for little old men, especially ones from Brooklyn (like my own Grampy was).



Understanding Mr. Kramer


Understanding Mr. Kramer

As I went through each photo essay, I took note of the themes I felt from the photos within each, the similarities and differences they portrayed, as well as the elements that each photographer was using to compose the story. When I came to the final essay, Remembering Hardware, I thought it would be less interesting than the first two, however, I was intrigued by the small caption that came with each photo. This was different and it kept me interested. As I got towards the middle of the essay, I found myself wondering, why did the elder Mr. Kramer not turn the store over to his son? It was this photo, of George Kramer in Kramer’s Hardware store that really captured my intrigue. So what about it caught me so off guard?

From an elemental stand point, this photo breaks several of the ‘rules’ our reading suggested. First, the rule of thirds is broken as Mr. Kramer stands centered in the frame, although this appears to work well within the environment. The balancing of elements also appears to be taken to a new extreme, coinciding with the background, which instead of removing noise from the scene, adds to it. As I examine these elements that were not “following the rules” I realized that there is something about the entire photograph that just throws me off balance. The lens is tilted making the picture appear off balance itself. There is more than adequate depth through the numerous objects in the image, yet it still seems overwhelming. This feeling, being overwhelmed, does however coincide with the thoughts I was having from the narration at this point in the essay. Why did Mr. Kramer not take the store from his father? If he is so capable of running the store, why could it not be his?

Then, as I continued to the end of the essay, the answer became clear. This photos distortion, elicits the turning point, the crescendo of the piece, that while Mr. Kramer is the most fit to run the store, he suffers from a learning disability that prevents him from being able to operate the business as an owner. Without this photo, this distortion of my perception of Mr. Kramer, I would not have been questioning what it is that held Mr. Kramer back from taking over the store. Had I not been questioning this, the remainder of the photo essay would have seemed lost as it detailed Mr. Kramer’s living arrangements. The photo breaks the rules of photo construction for the purpose of telling the bigger story.

While I was rather depressed by the essay of Detroit, taken aback by the range of living conditions faced by children around the world, I believe I felt most emotionally moved by this story of Mr. Kramer. The creator did a phenomenal job of being obscure while providing enough details to guide the audience to make sense of the photographs as a whole. I hope to elicit a similar rhetorical challenge to my audience as I begin to construct my own recovery story.