Photo Deconstruction

I let my son handle the camera for the first time yesterday.  He has seen me use it, and his sister.  He has see lots of photos.  So he has a basic understanding of what to do and of what makes a good photo.  But could he take a good one?  His sister has managed to take some winners.  So I had high hopes. Here is his very first one, and what I make of it:

The Boy's First Go at the Camera

The Boy's First Go at the Camera

First, notice that he did his best to aim at what he identifies as me.  He did cut off the top of my head.  Well, OK, he pretty much beheaded me.  But he is not tall.  He is a kid.  He looks at my torso more than at my face anyway.  So I think he was going for what he wanted to capture.

Notice as well the framing.  He didn’t place me in the center of the frame. I am off to the side.  In this way, he is able to include some of the background to give the subject some context. Smart kid, that.  The mail waiting to go out, the uncapped water bottle, the clock on the wall–all are clues to what this scene is about.

Notice as well the dorky sweater.  It was cold in the morning and I tossed that thick baby on to keep from getting chilled.  But by taking the photo when I am wearing it he will have some fuel to rib his old man down the road.  “Look at that dorky sweater!” he will proclaim.  “You were/are so uncool.”

You may be able to tell as well that the focus is soft.  He was going for a warm look.  As I said, it was cool in the house, so the slightly less than sharp focus lends a somewhat homey quality, makes it feel warmer.

So he got it all right.  He took a video later in the day, when his sister got off the bus.  That was a hoot.  He’s got potential.  Do we have a filmmaker in the future?  Or a photojournalist? Or maybe just someone who knows how use a camera?  Time will tell, eh?

A Little Contrast

Perry Schmidt, 1918

Perry Schmidt, 1918

This is a photo of my grandfather when he was three years old.  My grandmother gave this to me a while back when she moved out of her place into an assisted living facility.  He would have been 94 this year, were he still alive.  This photograph was taken in Connecticut.  It is a great photograph in terms of composition, especially considering how expensive such pictures were at the time, and how few might have been taken to get this shot.

I am sure they did not have many photographs.  Some may be hanging around somewhere and some may have been lost over time but, nonetheless, the family’s collection was likely small.  When I managed to migrate all the photographs from our old computer to this new one, there were over 8,000 to move.  I knew we had a lot, but I was still mighty surprised to see that number.  We have hundreds of photographs of our children.

There is a great contrast here in terms of what the world was like for my grandfather and what it is like for my children. I give my daughter the camera and she takes 50 photos.  Half of those might be good enough to consider keeping, and maybe ten we might call good.  There is little extra cost to taking all those pics.  Even when I was a kid one had to load film and then develop it just to see what came out.  That could happen the same day but not instantly, and it cost.  I am sure no one would have given my young grandfather the camera to take pictures of the chickens.

Moreover, I pulled out this photo from its clear envelope, scanned it, and now can send it around the world to thousands of people if I want.  I can print copies at home.  It really is such a different world than the world of that three year old boy.

The other thing to note is the chickens.  When this photograph was taken, if a family wanted to eat chicken, someone went outside and caught one, then killed it, plucked it, took out its innards and cleaned it before cooking it.  I think of how connected my grandfather’s family was to their food.  That many people are choosing to have gardens these days, or to raise chickens, is news, but then it was how people ate.

The interesting thing here, or I should say the really interesting thing, is that we are much more connected our photographs than our food.  We take photographs with our telephones but have no idea where our food comes from.  We can manipulate colors and edit out the goofy guy in the background, right at home after dinner, but most of us have no idea how to pluck a chicken, or even what it ate when it lived its confined life, or that it had a confined life, and most of us don’t want to know.  We seem to want to be distanced from our food.

Imagine this brief conversation:

Hey where’d that photo of Sam in Pete’s Mustang come from?

Oh, Jill sent it to me from her Blackberry.

Hey, where did those blackberries come from?  I mean really come from?

I don’t know.  Argentina?  Chile?  Somewhere far away.

My grandfather and his family would have been a tad confused back when those chickens were prancing about.

New Photographer

Recently I was stacking wood into the back of our garage and my daughter picked up the camera.  She took a lot of photographs.  Digital photography has changed how parents allow children to take photos.  With the old roll of film situation, we would have burned through of couple of long rolls had my daughter shot so much.  As it is, she took lots, got some pearls and some seaweed.

I was impressed by some of her shots.  They have good composition, play with colors and light.  Here are some samples:

Toy Boat on Stones

Toy Boat on Stones

Sleds in Garage

Sleds in Garage

Bark and Stones

Bark and Stones

November Maple

November Maple