a blog by knut skjærven

Itching Image

Itching Images: Strange Encounters

Strange Encounters. © Knut Skjærven.

What you want to see in a street photo is not only encounters, but what I call strange encounters. It is this strangeness that makes a picture itching. You want to have a second look. What are these people doing? Why are they there?

If the image is complex you need to connect different encounters to each other to prevent the image to fall apart in two or even more images.

There are different tricks that can accomplish such a unity. One of them is to connect sub-themes by a line structure like it is done on this image. Even a straight line will do.

There are three very different people encounters in this image: a) the pair in the foreground (which opens the image); b) the couple up left moving out of the picture; and c) the three (seemingly) gentlemen in the background in the right hand side. All of these are held together by the overall composition. They are  connected by lines, spaces and other more subtle pointers.

The main point is that you have to, at least, capture one strange encounter at the top of the visual hierarchy through which an image is approached/opened. In this photo such an entrance are the two young people in the foreground. They seem to have great fun discussing who is going to take the picture of who.

Strange does not carry any negative connotation. The label is used simply to connote a situation that is a little different. A humorous situation being one of the options.

24/05/2012.

This post has been prepared for a new website Street Photographer’s Toolbox. That site will not be public for a while yet. It is under construction. However, some of the many posts that will go into the new toolbox for street photographers can be read here. You can also get bits and pieces of the new toolbox at Facebook Page Street Photographer’s Toolbox.  Enjoy.

You can bookmark Street Photographer’s Toolbox already now.

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Itching Image: Decisive Moment / Complex

Beach Party. © Knut Skjærven.

ITCHING IMAGE:
DECISIVE MOMENTS / COMPLEX

This is definitely a more complex version of a Decisive Moment.

Complex is not the same are complicated because there is nothing complicated in this image. But it is, in my view, complex both visually and related to content. The share number of themes working together have increased when comparing this image to the other example of a Decisive Moment: Come Fly With Me.

The viewer will automatically ask for these many themes to work together for it to build a coherent image in his/her mind. I my view they do, but you don’t have to agree in this.

Let me point to the possible sub themes in image: the sunbathers and black dog looking out towards the canal; the man in the foreground also turning the back on the sunbathers; the sunbathers themselves; the dog and the man both turning their backs on the sunbathers; and, of course, the curious guy in the boat close to the frame at the left hand side.

What is happening here? That is the question. Is this a random constellation of people, or are there more subtle issues at stake here? Perhaps the whole thing is an act in a play unfolding on the dock of the bay.

I am not going to suggest what all of this means, because meaning in a complex moment like this is very much up to the individual to speculate about. And with that I will leave it.

If possible: Enjoy.

21/05/2012.

This post has been prepared for a new website Street Photographer’s Toolbox. That site will not be public for a while yet. It is under construction. However, some of the many posts that will go into the new toolbox for street photographers can be read here. You will also get bits and pieces of the new toolbox at Facebook Page Street Photographer’s Toolbox.  Enjoy.


Itching Image: Decisive Moment / Simple

Come Fly With Me. © Knut Skjærven

 

ITCHING IMAGE:
DECISIVE MOMENTS

Nothing is more important in photography than catching a Decisive Moment. Such moments makes or breaks an image. Here is one that is pretty decisive. I young lady hanging in the air at the landing place of the Copenhagen Marathon, May 20, 2012.

That said, what is a decisive moment? Sometimes it is easier done than said, because all do not agree of what a decisive moment is.

In a way all photographs are decisive moments. They can never be repeated and for whatever reason the release button is pressed, it renders a photographs of a decisive moment. Many people stick to such a definition and you will see lots and lots of photographs described as decisive moments.

However, such a wide definitions renders only small letter decisive moments. Let’s call them that.

Decisive Moments with capital letters are very different. More like the definition given by Cartier – Bresson: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a faction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” (The Minds Eye, Aperture 1999, page 42). These moments place a demand on both the content of an image as well as of its form. Compositions play a larger part.

How do I know the difference, you may ask? The best way to know the difference between small and capital letter decisive moment, is to take a good look at the image. With the same eyes and mind that you look at the world around you. If the image hits you as being striking it probably is. If it hits you as being Decisive it probably is. Look for the content and look for the form. The overall composition.

Can you learn how to take pictures of capital letters Decisive Moments? Good question. Some of it yes, but not all. It is like in the real world: Luck is important, and if you prepare for luck you will probably get it. You certainly can prepare.

And the other way around.

Good luck with it.

21/05/2012.

This post has been prepared for a new website Street Photographer’s Toolbox. That site will not be public for a while yet. It is under construction. However, some of the many posts that will go into the new toolbox for street photographers can be read here. You will also get bits and pieces of the new toolbox at Facebook Page Street Photographer’s Toolbox.  Enjoy.


Itching Image: Odd Man Out

The Gunmen © Knut Skjærven.

Odd Man Out fits perfectly as a description of yet another idea for making itching images.

Odd means stand apart, strange, different. Something that breaks with what is expected.

Expected does not refer to a personal expectation you might have. It refers to a visual expectation that is built in to the image, as far as that is possible at all.

Looking at The Gunmen, the guy who breaks out is the one looking in the photographer’s direction. This photographer. With a little surprise on his face for being photographed at the time of photography.

There is no rocket science at work here, but these images may be trickier to capture than you think. How often do you see three young men standing in line, with the same bodily posture, camera in hand and lifted simultaneously ready to shoot whatever it is? And a fourth breaking out having spotted this photographer? You?

Or a visual structure like it? The first man is the odd man out. Indeed he is.

Two things must happen at once. First you have to establish a visual expectation. Secondly you have to break that visual expectation.

For this type of street photography you have to do it by observation only. You have to FIND the situation and not DIRECT it. The type of street photography we strive for is based on unedited situations without any interference by the photographer other than that of being present. Not the Carol Reed way.

This is the principle then: Look for a visual flow that leads to a visual expectation. Wait for the third, the fourth or the fifth man to break out of that visual flow. It does not have to be people. Any other object will do as well. But you need a flow and something that diverts from it. An odd man.

Oh, I almost forgot. James Mason played the main character in Carol Reed’s movie from 1947. He was the odd man out.

Good luck with it.

160512
© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. (Text and image.)

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This post has been prepared for a new website Street Photographer’s Toolbox. That site will not be public for a while yet. It is under construction. However, some of the many posts that will go into the new toolbox for street photographers can be read here. You will also get bits and pieces of the new toolbox at Facebook Page Street Photographer’s Toolbox.  Enjoy.


Itching Image: Two Of A Kind

Two Of A Kind.© Knut Skjærven

One way to create an itching image is to make a two-of-a-kind shot. Like the one you see here. It is a very simple version.

You get an image of this type when you frame two (or more) similar objects. It has to be objects that are NOT intended to be isolated or framed together. Such a strange framing is what (can) make an image itchy. The famous Henri Cartier -Bresson used this little trick in many of his images. He did it well and was one of the first to use it.

Normally shots like this leaves an impression of curiously or humour. A smile at least.

When I speak of objects I include people, which are normally called subjects. Objects or subjects, in this context, it does not matter. In the shot above we actually have one of each: one live person sitting down and one kind of similar object in the painting. In addition we have a somewhat similar overall outline of the two, look at their hands and their faces. Same (roughly) positions of hands, and the somewhat same strange expression on their faces. Look at the mouths.

The picture was taken at the Danish National Gallery in Copenhagen. Earlier this year (2012). Copenhagen is in Denmark.

You can, of course, also make three of a kind and you can substitute objects with situations or groups of people, which will leave you will more complex images. In this example you get the very simple version. I would say that three of a kind is rather difficult to do. Groups or situations might be easier.

I mentioned that Henri Cartier – Bresson used this technique. His shot from Athens in 1953 is a good example. Here he combines two groups of a kind: two women upstairs (the decoration of the house), and two women downstair (passing on the pavement). Another one is shot in Nepal in 1963 showing a concrete figure with roughly the same outline as a passing woman. Another one yet is taken in Rome in 1951 showing a male hairdresser looking out the window of his shop. He is flanked by a poster of a woman in the other window. There are many more such examples in Cartier – Bresson’s portfolio.

I would say that two of a kind was probably one of Cartier – Bresson’s favorite techniques for creating itchy images.

When you see the shots that I have mentioned you will know what two-of-a-kind is all about. It is that very combination which MAKES the images mentioned. Two-of-a-kind is an effective way to create an itching image.

Very easy for you to try as well. Good luck with it.

150512
© Knut Skjærven. Text and image. All rights reserved.

————————————————————-

This post has been prepared for a new website Street Photographer’s Toolbox. That site will not be public for a while yet. It is under construction. However, some of the many posts that will go into the new toolbox for street photographers can be read here. You will also get bits and pieces of the new toolbox at Facebook Page Street Photographer’s Toolbox.  Enjoy.


ITCHING IMAGES

Is it all about street photography. This time too. It is going to be a new series of some 10 posts. Maybe even more.

Street photography, in this connection, defines as an approach to things more than a reference  to a location: a street. Street photography does not literally have to be shot in a street: the post office, the town hall, a railway station, an open space, a sports arena will do as well. Even inside a restaurant will do. So will all the likes.

But it needs to be shot in a public place; it needs to be un-staged and unposed; it needs to be contextual showing a slice of life rather then a portrait. First and foremost it needs to have people as the distinctive and bearing element. That is what is understood by street photography in this context. We will not concern ourselves with dead dogs, rooftops or colourful posters. Not with cityscapes either. We will deal with peoplescapes only.

Even with such a broad range of options all shots honouring the criteria above will not be proper street photography. There needs to be something more to it. We all know that. There are shots that are very boring, very plain and very ordinary. And then there are the good ones. Ready for all to see and appreciate. And we recognize them when they appear. There must be something to it then.

But what is this more to it made up of? What is this something. Why are some images acclaimed and others not?

Call it that some photographs have an x-factor; call it that extra, call it an undefinable something.  I call it  I T C H I N G   I M A G E S. And sure, we could leave it at that, pull the trigger of the camera and hope for the best. Could even close your eyes in doing so. We could leave it simply by labeling this mysterious and illusive phenomena. And then know nothing more about it other than the fact that images like these might pop up in front of our eyes from time to time. That would be the easy thing to do.

But we will not rest. We will search for these I T C H I N G   I M A G E S. Those rather few ones that pricks your skin and want to get inside. Those images that will not pass like ships in the night and leave no trace of having been there at all.

I call them  I T C H I N G  I M A G E S. We will seek them out. Not all of them, but the principles that make them itching. Or could make them itching. Not the whole story, but some of it. Enough to make good tools for learning.

Two things of importance:

First thing: Am I going to succeed in this? I have no idea, frankly. Time will show and you will be the judge. I will do my best. More cannot be expected from Europe these days.

Second thing: Are the images I use for illustration all going to be brilliant, I T C H I N G   I M A G E S. Answer: No they are not going to be, because that would not be possible. For copyright reason I will use some of my own images to make the point. I will, if possible, refer to images taken by one or more of the great masters (as we call them). My images are included to make the point only.

Your possible question: Is the image above an I T C H I N G  I M A G E . The answer is: Yes is it. In principle. It makes a point of one of the principles that we are looking for in the pursuit of  I T C H I N G   I M A G E S.  I will deal with it later. This post is only the prelude to the new series so it needs to be later.

How long is this series going to take?  Oh, a month, but probably longer.  Stay tuned if you like the idea :-).

This series will be a part of Street Photographers Toolbox, which is in the making, and not public yet. It will go into the toolbox.