I once attended a photography workshop where everyone was asked to bring a favorite photo. Attendees were amateurs like myself who were new to photography and wanted guidance from an expert. We shared our best photo and listened carefully while the workshop leader gave his critique. The photos were almost all good and for the most part, instantly forgettable.
The only photo I remember was of a girl laughing at something outside the frame. It was out of focus, off-center and crooked.
The workshop leader stared at the photo for a few moments before carefully wording his question.
“What is this a picture of?” he said.
“It’s my daughter laughing at a chicken,” she answered.
He paused and looked closer at the picture.
“Where’s the chicken?” he said.
“It ran off,” she said. “My girl thought it was so funny!”
The instructor then gave us a lesson on framing and content. To this day, whenever I take a picture where the main subject flies out of the frame, I call it my chicken-picture or the picture that-could-have-been.
I suspect though, that the mother, whose daughter would be a sulky teenager now, will have a different recollection. Whenever she looks at the picture, she will remember the carefree day her daughter laughed hysterically at a chicken running away.
All of which points to a lesson my instructor did not give. Namely that every photo tells a story but sometimes, the picture doesn’t tell the entire story. Sometimes, backstories need to be told and the picture completes it.
For this week’s Friendly Friday Challenge, I ask you to share a photo and tell us the backstory. What makes the photo special? Why is it a favorite? Is there a story behind the picture? Is it an enhanced or modified picture? What did you do to change it and why?
If this was a challenge which awarded points, I would give extra points for submissions featuring aesthetically ‘bad’ photos with interesting backstories or ‘good’ photos described with thoughtful critiques.
For example, one of my favorite photos is this one taken in Japan.
I like it because of the colors and sense of place. The kimono, the fence and signage are indicators of traditional Japan. What makes this picture special are the visual contrasts. The kimono’s vibrant colors in the foreground against the severe lines of the building. The playful posture of the young woman peeking behind the column and the unconventional turquoise blue of her fingertips.
Another favorite is this picture taken on a misty day at the beach. The sun had burned the fog off the land but not quite off the sand, giving the beach a hazy, mysterious quality. Kids were running and I liked the contrast of their carefree movements against the grounded solidness of the adult in front. What I didn’t like was the too wide perspective and washed-out colors. A bit of cropping and creative filtering took care of that.
For examples of technically ‘bad’ photos here are a couple shots scanned from an old family album. They’re special because they were taken at my childhood home in Jamaica and capture the essence of my pre-teen years in the 70s. I’m wearing a paisley shirt blouse, white hot pants and dark suede boots – all very fashionable but totally unsuitable for hot tropical weather.
Like pre-teens everywhere, I remember being obsessed with American pop music and teen idols. I adored the music of Donny Osmond, David Cassidy and Michael of the Jackson5. All of this while totally ignoring reggae classics in the making. To me, roots / rasta / reggae music was rough and homegrown, their sound repetitious and boring in their constancy on the radio. I grew up with reggae but never truly appreciated it until years later when I lived many worlds away.
These pictures are not perfect, not only because they were scanned but they were snapped with an Instamatic and an unpractised hand. There’s not much I could do to improve the pictures but I could augment it with graphics and context. Which is what I did in my Flashback video and this particular frame.
Now, it’s over to you.
For the next two weeks, the Friendly Friday Challenge is FAVORITE PHOTOS AND WHY.
Choose a photo, tell us the story behind the photo and say why it’s a favorite.
Create a post, tag it ‘Friendly Friday’ and link it back here.
I look forward to seeing your photos and reading the backstories. Remember, you have two weeks to post, for as many times as you wish. Have fun looking through your albums & archives!