a blog by knut skjærven

Posts tagged “toolbox

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.

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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.

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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.


Connotation Tool: Trick Effects

The Flying Dutchman.© Knut Skjærven.

IMPORTANT: I am preparing a new site named Street Photographer’s Toolbox. The site is aimed at active street photographers.

The new site is not ready for publishing yet, but some of the posts are.  This is one of the new posts. You will not be able to open all of the links in this post at present. Stay tuned. 

I am going to treat Roland Barthes’ connotation procedures in the same order that they appear in his article The Photographic Message in the book Image, Music, Text.  And I am going to add a little to them to point out their potential for street photography.

The first procedure he points to is Trick Effects. By that he really means trick effects: doing trickery, or faking an image. He talks about inserting an object or a person that was not actually there when the picture was taken. We know this from political propaganda but most of the times when a person is removed from an image after having fallen out of grace. Removing is in the same visual vocabulary as inserting.

Barthes mentions an image where an American presidential candidate was faked to be in the same shot as a communist leader. Thereby connoting a positive connection and even friendship between the two. The communist leader was inserted into the photograph. (We are back in the cold war days.)

Today, we would say that an image like that was heavily photoshopped by inserting an object or a person in a frame where it/he/she did not actually belong. Like in concept photography where this type of manipulation is quite alright. It will, however, not be acceptable in street photography were documentation is an important issue.

You may rightly wonder what this connotation procedure is doing in toolbox for street photography? Particularly as we speak of street photography as straight photography. Straight meaning that we do as little post production or editing as possible. Surely there is no room for trickery and faking images when you define street photography?

You are absolutely right, but as our mission here is to be loyal to Barthes procedures we have to include trick effects as one of his connotation procedures.

There is another reason which is even more important. That reason has a direct relevance for our understanding of street photography.

Roland Barthes: “The methodological interest of trick effects is that they intervene without warning in the plane of denotation; the utilize the special credibility of the photograph ( … ) in order to pass off as merely denoted a message which is in reality heavily connoted; in no other treatment does connotation assume so completely the “objective” mask of denotation.”/Page 21.

What Barthes is trying to say, is that photography of all media have a special capacity to trick people because people or object inserted into a photograph, done well enough that is, really seem to be part of denoted reality. Thereby you also manipulate connotations as in the case of presidential candidate and the communist leader.

Is that it then? Are Trick Effects of no use in a street photographer’s toolbox? Off to the next procedure in Barthes cluster of connotation procedures? Not quite, because photograph’s capacity to blur the distinction between denoted and connoted content can also be used with great effect in proper, unmanipulated street photography.

How come?

Let’s switch the words insert with include, and fake with make. Then the situation becomes very different. We manage to hold on to photograph’s capacity to be truthful to reality. Now we no longer have faked denotations that produce false connotation. We have real denotation producing truthful connotations. By substituting insert with include and fake with make we manage this.

Why is this important? It is important because I never understood quality street photography as a plain and a mostly mechanical rendering of street life. To stress the extraordinary in the seemingly ordinary takes a special effort of including or excluding (not inserting or removing) things that in the rush of passing (through life) are normally overlooked. That is the overall mission of proper street photography if it has any. That is its humanistic perspective.

NB: It can often be difficult to detect if a content is inserted or simply included. The difference is critical. In The Flying Dutchman above, the boy jumping in the background could have been inserted in the photograph. It is not. The connoted message could be described as livelyplayfulpositive.

Taking into account that the image is shot at Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, the connotations takes on yet another layer of meaning. Maybe a symbolic one. One of reconciliation perhaps. You decide.   The image holds first (denote) second (connote) an even third (symbolize) level contents.

Thanks for reading.

10/04/12

Relates posts in this section:  Introduction; Trick Effects; Pose; Objects; Photogenia; Aestheticism; and Syntax.

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