Friday, May 29, 2009

Greenpoint Avenue

Greenpoint Avenue Station, 2003

By the fall of 2003, I was using my first digital SLR and beginning to experiment with Photoshop (and learning how a little too much PS could be a terrible thing). My photographic style, if you could call it that, was very much in the pictorial tradition. Many images were more like painted Impressionist landscapes than examples of the latest, sharpest photographic lenses.

(I'm also, as you can see, still trying to get close to people.)

I once showed this image to a nationally respected museum photography curator, who criticized its lack of sharpness, its compositional imbalance and its painterly style. I tried to learn from his comments--his input on some of my other work was indeed transformational--but I couldn't agree with him on this image, which was purposely about all the things he criticized in it.

The only individual in this image who's important is the young man in the foreground. I don't want this to be a strict portrait of him, so he's not in sharp focus. But we can see enough of his face to know that he's just biding his time waiting for the train, trying to look unobtrusive and avoid the camera's gaze. Even if, in fact, his attempt to blend into the landscape by looking away from the track is only making him more conspicuous and interesting in a crowd of people who are looking in exactly the opposite direction. I want the other people in this scene to be just about colors and lines; presence, but not enough detail for us to think too hard about them.

The converging lines at the top of the frame lead us into this scene and down the platform, where the other people waiting for the train become a blur. To my eye, the heavy dark of the left-hand side of the image, including the man in the red sweatshirt, provides just enough imbalance to offset the open white space of the right side of the image and impart a slight edginess to this scene. But what do I know?

1 comment:

  1. I think it's like anything else--each person will react to a photo differently, and we probably bring our own sets of experiences to each one, the same way we do to any work of art or theater or movie or dance, etc.

    What does he know, anyway? I think you're right to follow your heart. It's interesting to hear your thought process behind what attracted you to the image in the first place.