penetrating view

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teechan

Member
Japanese
Hi. I've found this sentence in one of my textbooks, and am having a hard time to understand its meaning. Could anyone help me? Here's the sentence.

His photographs reflect a penetrating view of urban life in New York City in the late 1990s.

What does "view" mean here? Is it an actual, geographical view, or does it refer to the guy's perspective? Also, it'd be highly appreciated if you could tell me whether or not you ever use the phrase "penetrating view" in normal conversation.

Thank you in advance.
 
  • shawnee

    Senior Member
    English - Australian
    Hi teechan, I don't think 'penetrating view' is a common combination. One might hear of a 'penetrating ointment' or 'an army penetrating enemy lines.' Nevertheless, the expression is sound and conveys the meaning of an image captured by the photographer, which has as its subject details that inform the viewer of urban life in NY of the late 90's. The use of 'penetrating' here conjures up notions of urban realities which could be harsh, instead of scenic.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    "a penetrating view" is an "incisive look at" -- and I don't recall ever saying it in normal conversation, although I've certainly read it. Now, of course, I'm going to have to see if I can work it into my mealtime repartee this evening.
     

    teechan

    Member
    Japanese
    Hi shawnee and copyright. Thank you so much for helping me. :) But to be honest with you, I'm not confident yet if I really understand it.(Shame on me!)

    I'll try rephrasing the sentence, and would you mind telling me if I understand your explanations correctly?

    A. "His photographs can show you how harsh urban life was in NY back in the late 90's."
    Or
    B. "His photographs are so insightful that they can probably give you a good idea of how people lived in NY in the late 90's."

    Which is closer?
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Not A in my opinion, because we don't know that they were harsh -- although they may have been. Penetrating often gets mixed up with gritty.

    I think B is much closer, although penetrating is even stronger than insightful -- the photographs go beyond the surface to reveal a deeper insight or understanding than you would normally get.

    Here are a couple of definitions for you: incisive: impressively direct and decisive. penetrating: having or demonstrating ability to recognize or draw fine distinctions.
     

    teechan

    Member
    Japanese
    Thank you again Copyright!!! Now I think I get it! :)

    According to my dictionaries:
    incisive--->showing intelligence and a clear understanding of something
    penetrating--->showing an ability to understand things quickly and completely

    Your definitions are much clearer for me. :)
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    One of the pleasures of the Internet is being able to access different dictionaries. A personal favorite is onelook.com, which features Quick Definitions for convenience, links to many dictionaries for in-depth definitions, wildcard searches when you don't know exact spellings (or are trying to finish a crossword puzzle), and a reverse dictionary to help you find the right word when you don't know it.
     

    teechan

    Member
    Japanese
    Wow! This seems to be a great website! I've already bookmarked it!

    You're so kind. I can't tell you how grateful I am...:)
     
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