A couple days ago, I heard a phrase in my photography class that caught my attention. My professor was having a discussion with another student and I overheard him talking about how to “read a photograph.” I had never thought of a photo in the sense of something that could be “read,” but when giving it some thought, it made perfect sense. Photography is more than taking pictures after all. It’s the artist trying to tell the viewer a story and sharing a particular experience with the viewer in means of a visual display.
I know from personal experience that a photographer may not intend for a certain element to work out when taking the photo, but may discover it later on. There have been several cases in which I looked back on a photograph after shooting and discovered something I hadn’t seen in the moment of taking the photo. It’s rather fun finding these surprise elements.
There have been several cases in which I looked back on a photograph after shooting and discovered something I hadn’t seen in the moment of taking the photo.
One in particular that was pointed out to me by my professor when reviewing my photographs, was a picture I took in Rome. I had been focusing on rooftops (as I mentioned in my last post, “Rome and Tivoli”) and found one particular group of buildings which formed an interesting composition. Without a second thought, I took a picture. I knew when taking the picture that I would be using two other buildings to kind of frame the group of buildings which fell slightly behind them, but there was an element I hadn’t focused on that was brought to my attention later. The two buildings on either side had statues on top that seemed like they were facing each other. It was described as if they were lovers that were separated from one another and were asking the sky to build them a bridge they could cross, which I found to be beautifully poetic. Even though I hadn’t intended it to work out that way, I was amazed how it strengthened the photo.
Another photograph, in which I had a similar experience, was taken toward the beginning of the semester and was included in my first blog post, “New Discoveries.” When I had taken the photo, my only focus was the shopkeeper who was sweeping in front of his store. But, when reviewing my work, it was said that a particular element gave the photo an even more interesting story. Looking above the shopkeeper, on the facade of the building, there is a bust of a statue which seems almost as if it looks down upon him and maybe even thinks itself superior to everyone else in the Santa Croce square. I found it kind of funny how it worked out and how it added a whole new component to the photo.
Even though it may not be my strong suit to read a photograph just yet (especially my own), I enjoy the concept. It’s also rather interesting to hear other people’s thoughts on your work and their interpretations. But ultimately, whichever way a photo is read, it’s possible to find a new story within.
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