Wednesday, January 16, 2013

di Corcia meets Crewdson meets Wall, and what makes a photograph work

The picture above was posted on my daughter Lucy's fb page by her friend and photographer Frances Carter who'd made the photograph. I came across the photograph by chance and was intrigued by its dynamic. It seemed to me to have many of the conceptual and visual elements that make an image work.
The picture could have been either set-up or just a chance happening. As it turned out it was the latter, a spontaneous shot of a bunch of friends hanging out. Whatever, it's still a great picture.
So what makes it work for me? I'm left with the feeling of wanting to know what's just happened and what might be about to. I like this sort of response, where the reader has to work out what's going on. There is a strong sense of intrigue and mystery here. Questions asked.
I like to think photographs fall into roughly two camps. Those that when you look at them, your response is so what, it's boring, dull, seen it all before, and you dismiss it. Then the other sort, where your response is what the fuck, you are left with a feeling where you want to, have to, work out the mystery contained in the picture. Complete the puzzle or at least come up with the questions.
Frances Carter's photograph is a WTF for sure.

The other thing I like in France's picture is how the camera has taken a singular position as observer and has captured all that is going on, things that are oblivious to individuals in the scene. The women at the back are smiling, deep in conversation, unaware of what has startled the dark haired woman in the foreground. And the woman with the sunglasses on her head is eyeballing the camera as if the photographer has intruded. I like the light source burning out in the top right of the frame. That has an element of menace, yet the group in the foreground have turned in the other direction, their attention caught by something else.
As a composition the picture works too. I like the placement of the figures and the way those in the foreground are back-lit. There is a repetition of triangular shapes which gives the picture a certain rhythm. And the benign Hawaiian shirt which seems to be totally out of place is a nice touch.

Oh, I must ask daughter Lucy what was going on, worth a try, but I'm sure she won't tell...

Turns out Frances Carter is a pretty on-to-it fashion photographer, you can see her work HERE

Frances Carter shoots Princess Chelsea

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