Here we go – part two of people pictures. The groundwork was set in part one, so if you didn’t read it, you should. This post will make more sense that way. But again, to clarify, by “people pictures” I don’t mean portraiture, or lining up the family in the backyard. Those are important photos, to be sure, and I have taken enough of them that my family cringes when they see me with the camera. I mean people doing what they are doing – while traveling, walking down the street, sitting in the park – the photo opportunities are endless.
Let’s start, again, with a photo from the master of capturing “the decisive moment,” Henri Cartier Bresson.
I don’t know what the experts say, but this is why I find this photo intriguing. First, the shapes. You have several rectangles broken up with circles. The circles are almost symmetric – one right in the middle. Your eye lands on the gentleman in the center, almost perfectly centered in the center circle. Then it travels up to the right, with the figure in the sign pointing the direction the man is walking. Of course, there is the other man, partially out of the frame. The big sign on the upper left, along with the smaller sign on the right, helps frame the photo. So the photo flows, and your eye travels in a circle just like the circles in the photo. I think it’s a good illustration of Cartier Bresson’s decisive moment principle. Were the man on the left, there would be no flow to the photo. Were the other man not in the photo, it would be more static. He caught this scene at the decisive moment.
So lets do some more comparisons using my photos.
Here are some cute kids, no doubt. And it’s fun to look at because children are fun to look at. It is taken from eye level and that’s good. I can caption it, “Children in a kindergarten class, Fengdu, China.” Yet, all it is is cute kids.
Here are the same kids, but in this photo something is happening. They are obviously excited as they examine the bag of M&Ms. It’s doubtful that kindergartners in the United States would examine a package of M&Ms with such absorption. This picture really tells a story – not the full story, but a whole lot more than the kids in the first picture. And it doesn’t matter that they are not looking at us.
We were in Fengdu still, and we joined a noon time chorus. In China, communal activities take place all day, and retired people regularly meet to practice and learn new activities. The group we visited was singing, asked us to sing with them, and all of a sudden I found myself ballroom dancing with this gentleman. Afterwards, my husband took a picture of us. Boring. (it wasn’t his fault.) I can look at this photo and remember what it represents, but no one else will find it interesting.
This is much more exciting. It tells a story – a member of our tour group is dancing with a Chinese woman who is obviously having a great time. And you can see the other members of the chorus in the background. It’s a photo of people – but it has some movement and meaning. It’s unfortunate that an arm is “growing” out of her head, however.
Ok, one more set for today.
How nice. Susan and Mark in some rice paddies in China. Yes, we do want a certain number of “we were there” photos for sure. And we can see the karst mountains in the distance. But it’s a static picture and really just is “we were there.”
We were in the same rice paddies and this man and his son walked by. We still see the rice paddies and the karst mountains, but there is some interest to the photo. Carrie, who we were traveling with, had taken a picture of the pair and was showing the photo to the child. The composition is nice, the perspective is nice, and the shape made by the three people keeps your eye active. It doesn’t just stop as in the first photo. And again, it doesn’t matter that we can’t see the man’s face. By the boy’s sweater shading his head, we can guess that it was hot. More interesting than a full-face shot.
So – anyone who has followed these posts from the start has probably noticed that it’s hard to talk about good photos of people without mentioning the basics we started with. People and travel blend, and telling a story turns out to be critical in almost all photos.
Stay tuned for part three.