Photography is ultimately a medium of light, and a process of manipulating what we see. By choosing the time of day, location, and settings on the camera, the art of photography is as much what photographers allow people to see, as it is what the situation provides. For example, taking a photo in the early hours of the morning, as the sun is rising and the shadows will be sharper, will give a different perspective compared to midday, when the sun is overhead and the shadows more diffuse and indistinct. It’s always important then to remember that a photographer almost always has a choice about how they set a scene before them, even if it is a one off opportunity.
In the case of this photo ‘Yo Brains!’ - taken with a Canon 350D in 2011 - I made some deliberate choices about how I was trying to present this image.
Taken in Mount Gambier’s abandoned hospital, this was an exercise in manipulating the view of light. The Sun was only just rising, creating the longer and sharper shadows in the image. The hospital loved the light, and could produce remarkable displays of architecture and shadow under the right conditions. Capturing the overall feel of the hospital in its natural state, the photo conveys to the observer the abandoned and decayed feel of the building, while at the same time showcasing how the light brings life and energy to the place. The added benefit of the graffiti, just off the natural eyeline, also portrays another characteristic of the building.
Trying to draw attention to the light, I used the Rule of Thirds (ROT) to ‘guide’ the viewer. If you look at the image below with the lines marked, notice the bottom right corner of the central square. This lies over a section of light cast on the floor, which has a distinct hue compared to the white tones to the left. The upper corners of the centre square are largely cloaked in darkness, as is the bottom left, so they do not distract. If the aim fo the photo is to draw the viewer in, then the ROT is akin to wearing smart attire at an interview; it’s not the whole picture, but it’s the first thing to notice. The contrasting colour gives the opportunity to explore the image of light on the floor, and in so doing open up the photo to the viewer. It becomes a journey for the eye to study depth, tones and shapes.
Looking beyond the initial centre section, the viewer has the opportunity to see the dilapidated abandoned nature of the building, and read the detail of the graffiti. This helps give a sense of place in the photo, and delivers an impression of the building.
It’s always a little delicate, giving the blow by blow description of what I was trying to achieve. In a different sense, it could be an egotistically driven journey (“hey, look at how awesome I was with this photo”), and there’s no guarantee you’ll have seen the photo in the way I intended. Nonetheless, I think it’s useful to gauge how photographers think about the photos they take. The best photos I’ve taken are the ones where I have thought carefully about what ‘story’ or ‘message’ I am trying to convey. It doesn’t have to be a slow process; many photos are taken on the fly, but they are no less considered (a type of spry photography).
This photo hits all the buttons for me, and gave the type of imagery I was looking for in a place that I grew very much attached to. I hope you enjoy.