Friday, September 21, 2012

Feedback on The Intersection of Subject and Circumstance from a Point of View

My last post featured my homework assignment for The Intersection of Subject and Circumstance From a Point of View.  As promised, I am back with the the class feedback.  Before I get into the details, I want to compliment my classmates who all completely rocked the assignment.  The images were stunning and everyone stepped up their game from the first assignment.  In my opinion, this was a matter of better understanding our instructor's definition of "the intersection of subject and circumstance."  All are talented photographers capable of exceptional execution - the improvement we witnessed as photographs were shared and critiqued, was a clear understanding of expectations and what makes a great photograph from the photojournalistic perspective.

I was pleased that I nailed most.  The image below received a "meh" because of the perspective from the back of the performers.  Several classmates received similar criticism - we all took note that shots of the backs of our subjects rarely work.  There are certainly exceptions, but mine was not one of them.  Shooting the backside of subjects eliminates the opportunity to see emotion, understand how they are interacting with their circumstance or environment from an emotional perspective, and generally are less interesting.

I did not take the opportunity to defend my "point of view" for this photograph.  In the end, if the meaning of the photograph is not immediately apparent when a viewer first sees it, the image is inferior - there is no point in a defense.  Toren Beasley persistently beats the drum of "subject, circumstance and point of view must leave no room for must be obvious."

We are not in the classroom now, so I will take a moment to describe my intent and purpose for shooting from behind the performers.  My intent was to capture the feeling of a performer playing to a crowd that doesn't much seem to care about the performance.   I saw performers playing to an indifferent audience.  As you look past the subject (performers) you see, from their perspective, a crowd of people milling about without a single face looking toward the stage.  I do not take exception to the critique and scribbled a note to self - "no shots of the backs of subjects."  Check.  In short, I was over thinking the "point of view" part of the assignment which led me to take this shot.

The great value of our class critiques is that you not only get the opinion of a seasoned professional like Toren Beasely, but you benefit from the comments of classmates along with viewing their hits and misses - all valuable information to improve our photography.  Here are a few of the other takeaways I noted during the critiques:

  • Great photos prompt an emotional response.  When shooting your subjects, have patience, move, and find the emotion in the subject and the composition.  Facial expressions tell everything about the emotion, meaning, and mood of the shot.
  • When done right, the photographers intent and the viewers experience are in lockstep (unlike my "performers" shot).
  • The edges of the composition should put pressure on the eye of the viewer toward the subject.  The edges should not present a visual escape route.
  • Although we are encouraged to burn distracting highlights and background elements that do not contribute to subject and circumstance, thus pushing the viewers eye to the subject, be careful of creating halos.  See my photo below and the halo above and below the artist's arm.  I should have caught this - no excuses - the photographer has to own the product.
  • Even when precisely capturing the intersection of subject and circumstance, there remains the question of "so what?" If there is no meaning, message, or emotion in the photograph, there is no purpose.
  • And finally (worth restating), don't shoot from the backside of the subject.  Ironically, while on break, a group of us went to get coffee and took saw the news stand topped with the front page photo of the NY Times.  The photo featured above the fold was dominated by the back of an interviewer talking with a Chicago student affected by the teacher's strike.  Tisk, tisk.

Have fun, and go make some great photography.


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