Welcome to Photo Focus, where I examine a single photograph. These short essay’s will give a greater insight into the individual image beyond its context within a group of photographs.Furthermore, this is inspired by an idea a professor of mine always discussed in graduate school. He would talk about what about the photograph brought the viewer in and kept his or her attention. I will discuss what draws me to the photograph as well as, give a description of the photograph, a formal analysis, and discuss the meaning of the photograph.
I am always searching the internet to find more photographers working in South Asia. It is probably one of my favorite pass times. I love the variety I find from travel photographs to serious documentary work and everything in between. Architecture is among my favorite things as well. I love to visit architecture, make photos of architecture and look at photos of architecture. Although, I know very little about architecture.
This week I found a photograph by Ryan Lobo from his series High Noon in Lucknow. The main subject of the photograph is a weird bush, but the background is filled with architecture. The photograph is a square and it bottom one-third which makes up the foreground is filled with greenery, a bush or plant of some sort, it is not grass. There is an interesting bush jetting out of the greenery in the middle of the frame. The roots of the plant create a circular lattice work as it extends several feet from the ground. The leaves of the top of the plant has been manicured into a dome. A vast grey stone courtyard stretches out behind the plant life. The right side of the courtyard is populated by rows of columns and each of the columns is topped by a dome shape. On the far left of the frame is a fountain. Beyond the columns and the fountain are two dome shaped buildings. These dome shaped buildings sit on top of a raised platform and a made of light colored stone. The photograph has been framed so that the bush is positioned perfectly in between the two buildings.
As regular readers know, one of the main things that attracts me to individual photographs are the elements and principles of design. In this photograph there are several elements of design at play shape, form, and unity. Shape is perhaps the one that stands out the most. The shape of the dome is repeated throughout the frame. It starts with the bush being cut into the shape and the domes atop the columns lead back into the frame. These dome topped columns lead the viewers eyes back the domes of the buildings in the background. I am really drawn to the connection of shape between the bush and the buildings. It is what initially drew me to the photography.
Form is also important in this photograph. The repeated forms of the columns and the of the two buildings help structure the photograph. The way the columns are placed in the frame they create a one-point linear perspective where the vanishing point is directly behind the bush and between the buildings. It makes the viewers eye go directly into the background of the photograph. This use of one-point linear perspective lines on only one side creates an asymmetrical balance. The right side of the photograph is filled with objects to look at while the left side of the photograph is left bare. This bare spot leaves a place for the viewer’s eye to rest.
Unity has been created in the composition though the use of similar shapes and the color palette. The repeated shape of the half circle creates a rhythmic repetition which leads the viewers eye to different points in the composition. The neutral color palette holds the elements together while the pop of green creates a color variety which first brings the viewer’s eye to the greenery in the foreground.
So what does all of this structure and visual analysis tell us about the meaning in the photograph? It definite points to structure and order. There is a stability to the photograph. In art, these things are interpreted as expressing power. The title of the project High Noon in Lucknow, points to this interpretation as high noon is often seen as the apex of an event. Furthermore, monuments are often constructed as a sign of power. Orderliness is also seen as a strength, consider the grounds of any political or monumental building.
These particular buildings are at Ambedkar Memorial Park in Lucknow. The massive park was built between 1995 and 2007 and cost an estimated 7 billion rupees. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ambedkar_Memorial_Park, accessed: 11/09/2016). This excessive memorial park was built by the former Prime Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati. She served as Prime Minister of the state in 1995, 1997, 2002-2003, and 2007-2012. Though this Memorial park is dedicated to Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar Samajik Parivartan Prateek Sthal, who along with others “who devoted their lives [to] humanity, equality and social justice” (ibid), the monument is really a tribute to the power of Prime Minister Mayawati and her party Bahujan Samaj. It is telling that even today leader see building as a way of showing their power.
This photograph from the project High Noon in Lucknow, is a perfect example of how meaning in art is constructed though the formal elements. Even without doing the extra research on the place the photograph was taken the viewer can infer the meaning has to do with power and stability. This is the mark of a good photograph. The viewer has to use their knowledge and deductive reasoning, however, they do not need to be spoon fed the meaning of the photograph.