Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Documentary Photography [Altaf Qadari] – An article by Goff James

Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

This week I will be, again, talking about Documentary Photography and looking at an image by Altaf Qadari.

One can learn so much about photography by looking at; and, talking about other photograpgers’ work.

Documentary Photography may be defined as;

  • using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/documentary

  • a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage.

http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/documentary-photography

  • as following a single topic or story in-depth over time, as opposed to photojournalism’s real-time coverage of breaking news and events.
    • As deepening understanding and emotional connection to stories of injustice, and capturing and sustaining public attention with regard to pressing social and human rights issues.

    https://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/explainers/documentary-photography-open-society

    School For Less Fortunate
    Altaf Qadari, School for the Less Fortunate, (1/10), 2012

    https://www.friedaward.com/index.php/winners/winners-2015/school-for-the-less-fortunate

    This imageI I have selected this week is a work by Altaf Qadari  entitled:

    School for the Less Fortunate, (1/10), created 2012,

    Compositionally the image presents a scene of absolute dereliction and poverty set beneath the ramparts of some unstated shattered and crumbling edifice that is almost subterranean which accents the living hell the three main subjects find themselves in.

    The apparent motorway overpass held up by its squat Greek pseudo doric columns support a massively weighted concrete lintel which accentuates the subjects claustrophobic suppression.

    Set against the dilapidated depressing back wall and the surrounding filth and grime the composition rotates around the three children and their individual roles within the image.

    The children act as a leading line into the composition and create a diagonal from frame bottom left stretching to top of frame right that leads the viewers eye directly into the heart of the image.

    The child seated on the ground communicates both a reflexive defensiveness with his body turned inward and away from the viewer that exposes his personal vulnerability.

    The child who stands centre framed, torso bent, head tilted downwards facing the ground and turned slightly sideways away from the camera is captured in a less submissive stance and possesses an air of some dignified resignation and defiance to his plight.

    The third child in his elevated position stands on the collapsed concrete wall looking directly and provocatively outwards from the image towards the photographer and the viewer.

    The child’s pose echoes the pose of the second child but his stance is much more confrontational, direct and questioning regarding the circumstances of the dire poverty in which all three find themselves.

    The diagonal line which all three are adhered to, to some extent, is countered balanced by the line of the horizontal concrete slab and bricks that travel from middle of the frame right to middle of the frame left and which passes behind the central subject’s torso anchoring his pivotal role within the composition.

    The photographer has captured his portrait with a crispness of clarity that indicates a very shallow depth of field. Everything else within the image rotates around this key point.

    Apart from this central oasis of clarity the remainder of the image is blurred to a greater or lesser degree. Yet paradoxically this is not the main focus of attention.

    That, even though not defined with the same sense of preciseness as the second subject, belongs to the the child with the penetrating stare and whose position is accentuated by the lighting which enters the concrete cavern from the right of the frame.

    The subject is highlighted, even through the blurriness, by the manner in which the the split lighting of his face and the pool of light that floods his upper torso.

    This is further reinforced by the sharp vertical line that travels upwards from the bottom of the frame where he appears to stand like a statue upon a plinth.

    The lighting becomes increasingly dimmed and diffused from right of frame to left left of frame.

    The image captures the dirt and despair of their particular plight. Each child is held within their own space highlighting their isolation and vulnerability within the society in which they find themselves – outcasts.

    However their very individual actions through the process of actively cleaning this ghetto and removing some of the squalor indicates a pride, dignity and sense of self esteem.

    As the viewer scans the image one is drawn ever more into the  deep and complex narrative which reveals itself through its numerous and varied detailing.

    If one views the image from the bottom it reveals the rule of thirds and dictates how the image is laid out.

    The seated child on the left, part of the dirt floor and rubble and the lower legs of the central subject form the Lowe third.

    The central horizontal third is accommodated by the form of the centrally positioned child, the bags, floor and remainder of the pile of rubble and the the lower legs of the third subject.

    The top third is occupied by the mass of the structure, pillars and the outward facing boy.

    If one views the image from left frame to right frame the rule of thirds is reinforced. The left side third constitutes the pillar, concrete slabs and the rubble.

    The central vertical third contains the the boy facing outwards, the central subject and half the central pillar.

    Within the remaining third the seated child, bags and chair are positioned.

    The individual actions of the children provide the image with a sense of rhythmic movement within the composition. 

    Whilst the subtle changing monochromatic tones and the sharp contrast between the light areas and the shadows act as a counterpoint to the overall muted grey colouration of the image.

    Though there are several subsidiary compositional elements that lead the eye in to the background the main focal point of the image are the three  children who are isolated and defined by their distinct lighting, individual actions from their more indistinct surroundings.

    The composition demonstrates a very good balance between the light and dark areas of the image.

    There is a scattering, in the background and the foreground, of numerous subsidiary subjects across the whole image.

    All of these various elements contribute to and accentuate the main focus of the image the three key individuals that have been captured unawares within their own distractions and singular human actions.

    The subjects have been captured at a poignant moment in time. Both the photographer and the viewer have become flâneurs by default.

    The children with their individual positions within the composition and personal engagements lead the viewer’s eye, from bottom left diagonally across the image and towards the emptiness of the background that is filled with utter destruction.

    The background enfolds and unfolds around them and spills into the foreground surrounding them in an ocean of urban decay and neglect.

    The pillars, concrete walls, garbage and rubble not only endow the image with a great variety of textural qualities but stand as static structures within the composition providing a sense of ironic cohesion.

    This is counterpointed by the children’s clothing, bags, sitting mats and their actions to clear a space before commencing whatever activity it is their intention to pursue.

    I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

    Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment.

    Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

    Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

    Your photographs are your world.

    You can do what you like. 

    Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

    Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

     Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

    Happy Photography. 

    Thank you for your visit.

    goffjamesart.wordpress.com

    Art Photography Poetry

    Reference List

    https://www.friedaward.com/index.php/winners/winners-2015/school-for-the-less-fortunate

    Photography – A Beginner’s Guide – Documentary Photography [Dorothea Lange] – An article by Goff James

    Welcome followers and visitors to my blog and another update in my photography Beginner’s Guide to Photography.

    This week I will be talking about Documentary Photography and looking at an image by Dorothea Lange.

    One can learn so much about photography by looking at; and, talking about other photograpgers’ work.

    Documentary Photography may be defined as;

    • using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.

    https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/documentary

    • a style of photography that provides a straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects and events, and is often used in reportage.

    http://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/d/documentary-photography

    The image that I have selected is a photograph by Dorothea Lange, (1895-1965, American) entitled:

    Migrant Mother of 6, Age 32, Now Living in California,1936

    Screen Shot 2017-11-24 at 11.00.07
    Dorothea Lange, Migrant Mother of 6, Age 32, Now Living in California, 1936

    The image, held within a tight framing, and made up of a close up portrait set against a dilapidated cloth backdrop, of a woman with her lips pressed in a firm line, furrowed brow creasing her careworn, weather-beaten face with three children.

    It has a shallow depth of field with the apparent main light source directly above and behind the camera.

    Two children have their heads resting on the woman’s shoulders, their faces averted from the camera.

    The third child, a baby, whose face is visible at the right edge of the frame, behind a wooden pole.

    The woman is placed centre frame surrounded by her three siblings reflecting a classically triangular composition with two small heads on either side and the baby held close to her breast where her shirt is unbuttoned.

    The image reflects the dire poverty in which they find themselves –  ragged but resolute. The image captures the poverty, grime and despair of that era.

    It seems to be a simple photograph of a woman and her children, yet it tells the story and the struggle of a generation

    Amy Lane

    The subject’s body and head are tilted slightly forward to allow each of the three children the comfort they need.

    The image bears the iconic emotional and symbolic character of a classical monument or a Renaissance Madonna with all its attaching religious connotations.

    The main area of focus is the seated woman with her lips pressed in a firm line and her furrowed brow creasing her careworn, weather-beaten face.

    The woman sits within her personal living space and demonstrates an intense personal human emotion that invites the viewer to both respond to and empathize with the subject.

    The subject’s gaze neither meets the camera’s lens nor the viewer’s eyes but is cast provocatively outwards beyond such limitations.

    The image is deeply emotional and personal, but with an air of distance and detachment.

    The remainder of the composition communicates both a reflexive defensiveness, as the bodies of the two standing children are turned inward and away from the viewer that exposes their inescapable vulnerability.

    The tension in the woman’s face is accentuated by her supporting right arm and hand holding and pressing into the side of her face.

    This gesture reaching up to touch her chin and the total disposition of her body communicate related tensions.

    The image portrays both an individual’s physical and mental strength counterpointed with palpable concern as well as political ramifications concerning self esteem, productive worth and the futility of any action in impoverished circumstances.

    The image documents a period of history and tells the story of a time, place, group of people and their particular circumstance.

    We live in troubled times … it is impossible not to … make … connections to things happening today. It shows how a photographer can assume the role of activist to try to instigate social change.”

    Drew Johnson

    I trust that you find some of these ideas useful within the context of your own photography. Don’t be afraid to experiment and allow different ideas to develop as you go along.

    Remember what I referred to in previous articles about taking photos and creating photograms; the same applies to considering your own photos, other photographers’ work as well as applying different artist’s ideas too.

    Don’t be afraid to experiment.

    Experiment! Experiment! Experiment!

    Remember there are no right or wrong answers or ways of doing it.

    Your photographs are your world.

    You can do what you like. 

    Don’t worry about the theory and trying to remember everything about how to take or consider how to look at or stage a photograph.

    Don’t worry about what you might think is right or wrong in talking about or taking photographs.

     Make mistakes. Laugh. Have funJust enjoy the process.

    Happy Photography. 

    Thank you for your visit.

    I cordially invite you to subscribe to Goff James Art Photography Poetry at goffjamesart.wordpress.com (Doing so will allow you to be notified whenever new content is published on my blog.

    goffjamesart.wordpress.com

    Art Photography Poetry

    Reference List

    http://www.cphmag.com/migrant-mother/

    http://www.csus.edu/indiv/o/obriene/art1b/amy%20lane%20points%20of%20view%20fall%202012.pdf

    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-lange-photo-20170521-story.html

    http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/316062.html

    http://study.com/academy/lesson/migrant-mother-photograph-analysis-facts.html