Chris Little – Title Unknown (20XX)

Initially, this image caused my brain to crackle a lil’.

See one of my photographic preoccupations is conveying an entire (or at least the implication of an entire) narrative in a single static frame.

This image is not narrative. The framing is odd and it doesn’t work all that well but the subject is striking enough to round up to interesting.

But: it does provide an unintended cue with regard to the question of the distinction between narrative photography and cinematography.

Namely, images with a narrative slant tend to feature many of the same key aspects of that characteristic bedrock of cinematography: mise-en-scène.

Now, in still images (especially portraits) there is a tendency to place the subject in an environment and then effectively highly and underline the portrait-ness of the image by abstracting the environment. This process is called bokeh; and people will spend thousands of dollars on ultra fast 85mm lenses to maximize their bokeh aesthetic.

Narrative images, on the other hand, tend to go the Greg Toland deep focus/Group f/64 route–presenting an expansive depth of field so that the characters are contextual grounded in their environment.

And I’m not saying that there isn’t a cinematic cross-pollination which borrows from still bokeh and huge depth of field. Yet, what there isn’t really in still images, is the sort of David Fincher-esque shallow depth of field and bokeh wherein, something is blurry and abstract in the foreground, the subject in the mid ground is in sharp focus and the background falls off again towards abstraction. (This isn’t exactly the best example for someone new to the concept but for those who have their footing, it’s hard not to stare at this and not want to furious jill off to the effortless control this shot evinces.)

The thing I wasn’t expecting was to find next to nothing on the photographer. He doesn’t seem to have a web presence anymore. I was able to dig up a version of his old personal website cached on Ye Olde Wayback Machine.  It’s heady stuff–like Noah Kalina, Ryan McGinley and Petra Collins got mad hopped up on methamphetamine at the Hopscotch Festival and passed a 35mm disposable camera back and forth between them.

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