Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Putting The Subject First

As this course progresses the exercises move from being based on the technical aspects of composition, colour, lighting etc to examining and trying to understand the more challenging aspect of meaning.

The first chapter in Part 5 - Narrative and Illustration - looks at putting the subject first and asks me to compare two images. One where the subject of the image is all important and a second where the subject is secondary to the image taking qualities.

Image 1 - All about the subject
As an example of an image which puts the subject first I have selected
by Tomasz Lazar from Poland which appeared in the World Press Photo Contest 2012  - People in the News. It shows a protester being arrested during demonstrations in New York last year.

First of all I'd like to say that this is my own personal interpretation on "reading" this photograph in relation to this exercise and may bear no relation to the photographers actual intent.

If you knew nothing about this image it would make you ask questions. Where was it taken? When? What does it show? Has the photographer made a conscious decision to shoot in black and white? Why?

Personally I love the photographer's use of black and white for this image. There is a timeless quality to monochrome. In this case there are also no visual clues within the image itself to suggest when it was taken. On first sight it reminded me of protest images taken in the 1960's and 70's. Removing any distracting colour from the scene helps concentrate the viewers attention on the intensity of the protesters expression which is in contrast to the professional tolerance or perhaps indifference of the police officer.

Technically, I couldn't say the image is perfect in every sense. The most important character, the protester, is well framed, exposed, focused etc. but you could also argue there are issues with motion blur and framing. The overall impression I have is of a shot taken quickly in a fast moving environment.

What I think the photographer has done very well is capture the emotion of the scene and as this is the most important aspect of the image any technical "issues" rather than detract from the image actually add weight to it giving it more credence.

In contrast this image by Edward Weston demonstrates the technical qualities of composition, lighting, framing etc.

For me this image is all about the study of shape and form. Getting the technical aspects of taking the picture correct are much more important than the fact the subject of this image is a cabbage leaf. Lighting, style, composition are the important qualities here.

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