Relationships in photography
A Lot of my photography revolves around understanding relationships. It is a conscious effort to sniff out circumstances where the elements are speaking to each other rather nicely. There are also instances where I have gone to shoot having a concept in mind. This narrows down the vision to look for specific cues to make an image. Much like fashion photography but in an indefinite circumstance. Many a times it works, and many times it doesn’t.
In this write-up I’ll share with you what I’ve discovered about relationships as a photographer.
In my recent shoot of vintage cars, I had decided to look for the communication skills of these lovely cars. How their form interacts with their surroundings. Especially today, when a form is understood in a very different manner.
This is the Pontiac Silver Streak. An imposing figure. So the photograph had to achieve it.This picture is an example of Conceptual Relationship. Notice how her big mass influences time and space around it. I believe every form does that, but bigger forms do that more dramatically. This photograph achieves a lot more. See the two and half windows of the background, overwhelmed by the curved forms of the car. It was what I had intended to capture. But let me be honest, though the notion was preconceived, during the taking of the shot all I wanted was to catch the reflections on her body. In the bargain I got those two and a half windows and, believe it or not a reflection of the front side of hotel Le Meridian when we were at its back . I can’t figure out how, but must be a result of multiple reflections. See the rear window reflecting the sunshine from the front of the hotel.
The distortions on its shiny painted surface accurately reflect the metaphors I was looking for. For me the image is successful in capturing an idea, a preconceived story, so it is a good example of conceptual relationship.
Situations in street photography are as unpredictable as life itself. Yet relationships abound everywhere. Have a look at this image shot at Nizamuddin.
I’ll categorize this as an example of Structural relationship. Notice how the van on the left and the car on the right create a V shape. Also see how the shape of the rickshaw fits nicely in that space. It fits nicely because I positioned myself to capture the elements in such a manner. The sleeping driver-s and their juxtaposition against the beginnings of a morning make the story and the intent of the photograph, but it is the structural elements which draw most attention.
A visual is a composite of structures, ergo every image must be an example of structural relationship. After all every one at Chandni Chowk has a relationship with the place, if they didn’t what are they doing there? But a random photograph is not going to do. It has to have more than merely a structural relationship.
So now we find out about emotional relationship. Perhaps the most important element in an image. Emotional relationship exists in many dimensions. Within a picture and outside it, where it interacts with the viewer of the picture itself. It has various flavors. Social, cultural, political, economic and so many more to even count. But it is the right structural relationship that leads to an emotional relationship. Let us examine the next image.
The lines of the buildings at the background contribute to the stature of the holy men on the chariot. The staff, the flag, add strength to the narrative. However without the outstretched hand the image will be limp. Without the mass of humanity below him there will be no context. I think this is a good example of a picture where structural and emotional relationships come together nicely.
A very interesting phenomenon is the creation of a contradictory relationship. Let’s see the following image.
Notice how everybody around the man holding his son is busy doing something or the other. Because the man and his son are in a contradictory relationship with others, makes this image successful.
A photograph has to make an impact in milliseconds. If it requires an elaborate explanation it is faltering somewhere. On the other hand many a times an interesting image seems to have no reason to exist. A mundane event looks promising just by framing out of context elements along with it. The picture above is an example I had to share with you. The weight of the frame is a bit lopsided. The blue door in the center is strong and the happenings on the right are nothing out of the ordinary, yet the image works to draw attention. For want of a better categorization, I call this metaphysical relationship. This is a profound relationship, as the very fact that you as a photographer have stopped to take notice, take time and shoot comes through in the picture. Most who will analyze the image will find words to dismiss it as nonsense. But the image will continue to attract attention and disturb in a positive or negative way. Without the help of structural relationship, even metaphysical relationship will not be so much appealing. The strong lines of the doors contribute heavily to make it work.
Colors have a lovely and a strong way of communicating, so strong ,that many photographers just take that equation out of their images. Yet relationships between colors is an important part of the narrative. Here we analyze chromatic relationship.
The blue pillar in the image can be considered by many as distracting. But just being blue and hanging out with oranges and yellows creates a strong case for itself. For me it re-enforces the expression of the girl. If it were not blue, it wouldn’t have been so effective. This picture is an example of how almost all relationships come together to make it.
A case of obvious relationship. Nothing much to write home about. But when at a place where I expect the obvious, it is mandatory for me to begin with that. Its like a photographer coming to India and missing out on the Taj Mahal. It gives me security and on that I build up my other observations.
These are the relationships I keep in mind. For you things might be different or more than the said relationships. The most important relationship of a photograph exists outside it. It is the relationship it establishes with its viewer. To achieve that, relationships within its own viscera have to be easily comprehended and readily recognized. What you capture describes who you are at that point in time. Later when you see your images you also see yourself in them. Now that is an important relationship to consider……..
Finally, don’t forget the light. Photography is about light. Where you get it right, you make everything else work to your advantage. So YOUR relationship with light is very important.
In a later blog post I’ll write about one’s relationship with one’s surroundings. It is a result of my observations when I came back with good pictures . I have a theory based on ancient Hindu philosophy of Sanatan Dharma. It’s work in progress…….
Till then, cheers…..