A photo a day – a consideration of subject matter, form, production values and evocation

Yesterday’s photo of my cupboard got me thinking about hidden things. Lots of photography is about exposing issues – video clips of money passing hands, photos of politicians or the good and the great taking drugs etc. Then there is the photography of the exotic where difference is explored – sometimes sensitively, sometimes as spectacle.

Subject matter

But it doesn’t seem too often that we explore our own hidden environments. I wonder what Mary Mark Ellen, JH Engström or Martin Parr have in their cupboards and under their beds? Of course, I know they will have all the usual things most people have, but I am sure there will be particular things that they are not even sure, or can remember, why they have them. Yet such items tell us about ourselves.


I also thought about the form of yesterday’s presentation. As I mentioned on that post, the image did not offer a strong aesthetic form, and I tend to prefer photos that speak in terms of form as well as content/subject matter. I don’t mean everything has to be a spectacle, but a well balanced photo is something I like. Take this image of Edmund Clark here entitled Camp 6, mobile force-feeding chair. Not only is the image thought provoking for its very interesting, and often hidden subject matter, but the lines and framing of the item provide a strong gestalt so the image works in terms of form as well.

With these thoughts in mind I took a shot of what is under my bed.

This photo shows, drinks, incontinence sheets, a leg bag, and a wheelchair tyre pump in the foreground, and various holders and wires further away, all under our bed. I’ve used a very wide angle lens – 14mm – to get as much as I could in the frame but this has given the image quite a lot of distortion. Thus rather than the form being strong like Clark’s its more spectacular and put me in mind of Bradley Garrett’s fantastic photo of cities – see here.

However I am not sure the form of this image could be classed as New Realist because of the distortion in it. This gives the image an abstract quality.

Production values

I also considered and experimented a little with both flash and non flash images of the same vista and various production values in in addition to the framing.

Production values

My end choice was to use one where off camera flash was applied as this helped evoke the sense of uncovering and illuminating a hidden vista whereas the non flash image (centre above) purely documents and distorts without this evocation and to not overuse clarity and contrast (as in the right hand image above) or framing (centre line at top of the frame dominating) where the evocation moves away from a realistic presentation into a graphic stylised one.


About Pete

South Londoner struggling with life, art and photography.
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