May 032014
 
At the museum, from above…And opinions

I posted this picture (taken from the blog posting that precedes this one) on an online forum — mostly to give the members a look at what a couple of new lenses could to.  More of a semi-technical posting than an art statement.

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Of course this invites comments on the aesthetics from both the well-intentioned and the clueless alike…Which is why I rarely post photos on forums.

I got this one: “I like the perspective on the 4th indoor shot, but I would tighten it up quite a lot. I’d crop away everything except mom, baby and the girder. I wouldn’t crop much from the bottom, don’t want to lose any of the stroller’s shadow. The round things at the ends of the girder would go though, as would the shadow coming in from the top.”

A follow-up post from the same person was a backtrack that decided not to backtrack:  “I didn’t say you had to tighten up the shot, I said ‘I would tighten up the shot.’ I just don’t see how the extra elements add anything to the sense of time or place. For me, the photograph is all about the baby and the mother. Everything else is a distraction.”  His would look something like this:

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And from a very superficial point of view he is correct:  It is about the woman and the baby.  But his framing leaves us with little else, and certainly not a hint of context.  To me, it ends up almost as a gimmick shot.

His concerns about not showing a “sense of time or place” should really be about his suggested cropping.  In my wider cropping you get a sense that this is probably a large public space.  His gives you non of that.  The sense of time is not absolute, but subjective or relative.  In the context of that larger public space, the connection between the woman and the child is even more apparent — a personal moment in the larger world.

The girder has an interesting look, but in his cropping it becomes a visual barrier:  There is nothing beyond.  There are some interesting shadows, but nothing that provides any context to the venue.  The girder constrains rather than expands.  Pretty much “Here it is”.  In the tradition of faux photojournalism.

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I like the looser cropping of my original post.  For me, it works for two groups of viewers.

  1. For people familiar with the venue (granted, far less than 1% of the viewers), it illustrates the space.  You know what the shadows represent, at least in a general way.  And you also know how precious these moments are at a busy museum…In a minute or two, thirty people can be standing at this very spot.
  2. For those just looking at the photo afresh, there is a little more mystery.  Leaving the angle on the girder (to the left) gives the viewer a “way out”.  With the area left above the girder, the girder is no longer a visual barrier, but begins to define the “beyond”.  All of the area surrounding the woman and the baby becomes potential subject for speculation.

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I often come across situations where I want to acknowledge people in my photos, but don’t want the viewer dwelling on the details.  There is room for debate on whether this is an effective approach, but it does reduce the emphasis on individual people — a sort of ephemeral objectification of the humans.

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

The Louvre

The Louvre

Auschwitz

Auschwitz

But one last note on cropping the original image…Perhaps I could have cropped out a wee bit of the distracting stuff along the right edge…

Click Image to Enlarge

Click Image to Enlarge

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