D. Robert StanleyEmily (2010)

I appreciate the effect this is chasing; an ex post facto insinuation wherein the moment portrayed implicitly addresses the events immediately preceding it:

  1. The image maker stares out across an empty parking lot, a Leica M8 dangling from a strap around his neck;
  2. He hears the screen door opening to his left. A young woman–not wearing a stitch, presumably his companion–stands in the doorway, a cigarette hanging from her mouth and fumbling with a book of matches;
  3. Registering the base elements of An Image, the image maker sights through the viewfinder while pivoting, rocking focus hard right then slow left as the match head flares, drifts upward;
  4. As the flame touches cigarette tip, he triggers the shutter.

Although I am tempted to refute the assertion that this is a ‘narrative’ image–it’s not; there far are more urgent fish to fry.

Here: I want to point out once again that I dig the idea underlying this. I really do.

I am bothering to reiterate that point because I am afraid what follows may really harsh the image maker’s buzz.

First, I am very sorry but this is not a portrait. Welcome to Name That Genre, I am your host Jon Rafoto. And oh, I’m sorry you said ‘portrait;’ the answer we were looking for is: street photography. (EDIT: Unfortunately, I got a ahead of myself here and started playing fast and loose with the terms. What I meant is that the perspective of the image is closer to street photography than portraiture but I conflated how with the what and that led me to attribute (wrongly) the content to the genre of street photography. This was a mistake.)

See: a portrait preferences the subject over their surroundings. This preferences the surroundings over the subject.

Sure, I’ll see the ’environmental portrait’ call and raise with a ‘the tendency of a sitter in a portrait to acknowledge the camera’.

All that doesn’t even matter though because in this case I am holding pocket aces in ‘the camera that made this image was hand-held’. Now, that’s not to say portraits can’t be hand-held, they certainly can. But the failure to square the frame against the verticals of room 20’s door jamb to and the rightmost window edge is either shoddy composition or an effort to emphasize the pivoting pan of the photographer–suggestive of street photography.

Further, squaring the frame would have made the questionable compositional logic gallingly obvious.

That being said there are some insightful inclusions. There is an effort to include the texture of the roof as a compositional feature. As is, it doesn’t play. But the instinct to include it was excellent.

What was needed was either for the photographer to take two steps back and square the frame. Or to have a half-step left and squatted down. The former option would have shifted things even more toward street photography, the latter would have shifted it closer to portrait.

Both would have had the additional benefit of not bloody making the most annoying newbie mistake in the book–if you have to amputate with the frame edge do so in between and not at joints.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s