Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Understanding a photograph…Picture power: Pausing the moment

So often people when viewing an image on screen or in a newspaper fail to understand that what they are looking at is an instant, a moment in time. Either side of that fraction of a second there could be a different scenario unfolding. It is the wonder of photography that we are all so adept at assimilating information from an image. But are we coming to false assumptions? This interesting article on the BBC website by Phil Coomes addresses this when considering images taken by Carl Court in London last week during a march by thousands of students protesting against education cuts, tuition fees and student debt.

But what was happening moments either side of when the frame was shot? What is going on just out of frame? Is this man alone, or with a group? And so on…

Here we have a young man about to strike at the window of a Starbucks coffee shop with a wooden stick, and inside two women are seemingly unaware of what is about to happen.

Initially that is it, and our reaction, or mine at least, is to wonder if the glass will break and when the women are going to look up and focus on what is happening outside……

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Each of us will see something slightly different in a photograph and will interpret it in our own way.

This then brings into play the other key figure in a picture – you, the viewer. Your views and beliefs will affect the way you see a picture. Is this a justified moment of protest against a multinational company, just mindless hooliganism, or even a gesture in the heat of the moment?

So whatever the subject matter it does no harm to look at the forces at work behind images you see in the news, or indeed elsewhere. How was it taken? Where would the photographer have had to be and how did they get there? Who is publishing it? What of the people in the picture? How are they influencing an image? And lastly, are you giving the picture a chance or have you made up your mind about it already?…

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 13.16.49

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 13.17.09

images by Carl Court

Read the full article here

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