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.
Many of the photographs I have used for the Photo Focus posts have been architectural in nature. This week’s photograph is not strictly architectural, even though architecture is a part of the image. I was drawn to this photograph because of its subject matter. It seems to be a rundown store room, something time forgot. I find many places like this in India. This morning I was on the rooftop of a cafe and behind the next building there is a pit. It is clear a building used to stand there, however, only rubble remains. The pit is surrounded by buildings, most likely homes. In India if it is not yours, you overlook it. The photograph here reminds me of this. The photographs subject and composition give the viewer clues into the meaning of the photograph and it is these things I will discuss here.
The photograph is square and shows the inside of a building and it overall feeling is dark. Just left of center in the foreground is a stand with shelves on it. The shelves are in cubes 4 by 4. The cubes are drawers and below them are two open and uneven shelves. The shelf on the right holds a metal tea pot and one stack of clear plastic cups, while the left holds three stacks of clear cups. The structure is worn, the pedestal seems to be put together in a makeshift way. Furthermore, there is a dark blue jacket hanging from the right side of the shelves. Above the selves is a white box with a red cross on it. It is hard to tell if the box is on top of the shelves or behind it. The background of the right-hand side of the photograph is cluttered with many things. There are two pieces of board laying on the ground with some tools. Along the back wall are shelves that appear to have wood and other materials on them. There is a florescent light hanging from the ceiling and centered between the edge of the frame and the structure in the foreground. A pink sheet hangs behind the light obstructing part of the shelving unit. The shelving unit extends to the left-hand side of the frame. There are sheets of wood leaning against the shelves. Between the shelves in the background and the structure in the foreground is a green desk and chair.
All photographs make use of principles and elements of design. However, some photographs do not employ them in such an obvious way, which is the case with this photograph. This photograph employs shape and color as its primary design elements. The square/rectangular shape is repeated throughout the frame. Most obviously in the organizational unit in the foreground. However, the shelves in the background are divided rectangular. Furthermore, the ends of the boards on the shelf, the sheets of wood on the floor and the ends of the table and stool repeat the square/rectangular shape throughout all layers of the image. In a way, this repetition of shape creates a rhythm. Many times, rhythm creates a visual path through the photograph. I would argue that the rhythm of the shape does not create a visual path in this photograph. I would suggest that it is the color that directs the viewers eye through the frame. The colors of pink/red, blue and green are selectively placed throughout a palette of browns. The human eye is naturally drawn to the brightest object in each situation. Thus, the eye bounces between the colors in this photograph. Furthermore, the brightness of the florescent light fights for dominance with the structure in the foreground. The visual struggle between scale and tonal value.
Based on my observations stated above, I believe this photograph is a document. A document of a room overlooked by the masses. It is a storage and work space. It is probably rarely seen by anyone not working on it. The photograph can give us pause to contemplate the reality of lives, spaces and how they intersect. It also confronts our notions about how products are made and where they come from. The photograph also leaves us with questions of who it belongs to or who works there and what is being produced from the wood. Ultimately, the photograph is a window into a space that the viewers would most likely never see.
The elements of this photograph are cluttered. At first glance, it might be difficult to see the design elements and principles at play in the image. However, the composition of the photograph tries to show the reality of the space. It’s a rare glimpse into a world most viewer have never experienced. In some ways, this photograph is a departure from what usually interests me, however, I was drawn to the repetition of shape before I realized it.