Thursday, February 29

An Analysis of Photographic Style in Two Parts


In response to a photograph by Chromasia, I wrote a couple of comments that turned into something of a mini essay on photographic style and how it relates to us as a medium. The comments were worthy of posting here, so I thought I would share them with you.

Part One posted in response to Mother

Photographers have at their disposal a couple of basic tools. The use of perspective to alter the normal perception of a scene or object, and the arrangement and tonal depth of light.

Without going through all your photos to survery them, just from what I remember seeing on your posts the last several months, it feels like you specifically shoot with an emphasis on either perspective or light.

This one’s color and tonal depth are striking. My favorite
compositions fall into the light painting category, for example:

A lot of these are monochromatic, which I find telling. The few that are of color tend to have a limited color palette. The simple reason for this, I think, is because fewer colors allow us to focus on the tonal range, the photo graph, if you will. It also simplifies the subject, isolating a specific feeling or notion.

It is the isolation that I think endears this approach to me most. The revealing of something basic, something you can savor without the distractions of a complicated circumstance.

I would have passed by this one as unremarkable at first glance. Its nice enough, but seems to fall into that category of things done before. There are a lot of photos with the same austere lines that seem to all look the same. It isn’t a bad shot, but it lacks punch. No emotional trigger for me.

Part Two posted in response to Climb Every Mountain

In your previous image, I commented that the photo’s I liked best were ones that fell into the "light painting" category. I posted several examples. I grew tired of architectural photography early on in my personal experience because it seemed very little was said in the images beyond the, "oh neat!" factor. I found myself looking for imagery that in some way told a story. Most of my architectural shots were part of a survey of important cultural places in Saint Louis, all shot in 2002. A series is usually more appealing than a single shot, because you can say more about something that way. You can show the similarity in buildings and modes of construction, or show the contrast between neighborhoods and parts of town.

I find portraits appealing because they usually carry a more emotionally charged trigger. Your Mother Daughter shot can be derived symbolic of anyone’s Mom and their relationship with her child. The woman in the cafe is a cliche; a romanticized scene played out in movies and stories the world over. The photos of the little girl lift up the idea of youth, and the innocence it typically brings with it.

Light Painting type scenes usually have a strong emotional trigger geared toward the romantic. The overly saturated/hyper realistic photos can also have strong emotional triggers, but they are geared more towards nostalgia or darker more austere moments in time. The photo of the Old Automobile is typical of that kind of image. It was reminiscent of an older more aged time, but tinged with a bit of regret. Things were more dignified then,it would seem from the image.

Architecture is hard to speak with. The themes tend to be minimalist and esoteric in nature. They are less connected with the everyday realities we deal with, and thus don’t usually have the same emotional triggers into our lives. 


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