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Pope, Carl, Jr. Man Riding City Bus, 1980s


Carl Pope Jr. was born in Indianapolis and credits Donna Hostettler, his high school photography teacher, with enabling him to the see the medium as a conduit for social change. He pursued his passion for photography at Southern Illinois University, graduating in 1984, and then earned a master of fine arts in photography degree from Indiana University. He has taught at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the University of Chicago. His projects have received support from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His photography, installations, and videos have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.

  • Man Riding City Bus, 1980s
  • 23″ x 34 3/4″
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Keywords: photography, photographs
  • Subjects: people, men, transportation, buses, buildings, graffiti, chairs

In the mid-1980s, Pope returned to his hometown of Indianapolis and began working as a freelance commercial photographer. During this time, he began to use his camera to investigate the “socio-economic landscape of Indianapolis,” creating a series of images such as Man Riding a City Bus, which won him critical acclaim and awards. This image depicts the interior of a city bus. The bus is clearly in motion because the buildings on the outside appear blurred. Riders are standing or seated and there is graffiti on the ceiling of the bus.

Some Points To Consider

  • Point out to students that the artist made choices that affected the expression in this photograph. Ask them to describe the subject and background. What are the darkest and lightest areas? Is the figure centered? (Art 4.3.1)
  • Ask students to describe their reactions to this photograph. What emotions do they feel? Have them make a list of words to describe the mood of the photograph. (Art 4.3.2)
  • Ask students how the use of a camera allows the artist to capture authentic connections to his culture. What do they think is the function of this work? (Art 4.1.2)