Monday, October 29, 2012

Part 5: somber

Part 1: the wall
Part 2: sounds of silence
Part 3: canyon at sunset
Part 4: Untitled #37

Immediately I'm struck by the emotion of this photo: sadness, contemplation, melancholy,

Portraits of children are supposed to be happy, smiling, giggly, colorful. Of course not all are that way, and I've seen portraits of serious children that are gorgeous. I'm just talking about stereotypical images.

This "portrait" breaks the principles of good photos. Nothing is on a line of thirds, neither horizontally nor vertically. Normally the eyes are supposed to be sharp, in focus. Here, by contrast, nothing is sharply in focus. The whole image is blurry, adding to the emotion of the scene. Sadness is blurry and uncomfortable - it can create a lack of focus in our world. I've cut off part of her face, which can be a strong photographic technique. But the crop happens in the middle of her eye, even cutting off part of her mouth (some symbolism there?). Lastly, the line of her hair divides the picture in half rather than using one of the vertical thirds lines. The lines of her hair, her eyes and the background are diagonal, which can create energy in an image, but they're barely off vertical and horizontal.

The background is out of focus, which helps me focus on the girl, but the sky at the top is one of the brightest parts of the image, as is her hair in the upper right corner. The principles of photography tell us that the viewers eye is drawn to the brightest part of an image. So the bright-ish sky draws attention away from the girl, which also follows the emotion. When I'm sad, I don't want people to pay attention to me. I don't want to be coddled or placated. I'd much rather be ignored and have people look away from me.

The girl here is also looking down, body language indicative of sadness. She's not making eye contact with the camera or the viewer. While we're looking away, ignoring her, she's ignoring us. I also think the b&w treatment adds to the image. While this photo is still strong in color, the emotional subjects of this photo don't conjure images of color for me. It is true that melancholy is often associated with blue, but for me, being at my lowest feels drained of color and stark.

The last element of contrast can't be seen unless you happen to know this girl. "J" is one of those girls who seems to have a constant smile on her face. She makes people around her happy just by being who she is. To catch her in such a serious moment is not capturing her dominant personality. I don't remember, but I'm sure that 2 seconds after this photo, she was looking at me, smiling that big, happy smile she has. I'm so glad I was able to catch this brief glimpse.

One last thing about this photo: it's intentionally accidental. When I was working as a school counselor, I often took my camera to recess. Kids all across the playground would come running when they saw the camera. "Mr. M, take me a picture!" Most of the photos I took were literally shot from the hip. I would hold the camera at my waist, point it toward one of the kids and take a photo. Sometimes the images were unusable. But sometimes I was rewarded with a remarkable moment, caught in an otherwise invisible glimpse.
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