Archive for the ‘Documentary’ category

Tear Gas Canisters – Mert Cakir

July 4, 2010

This images was taken in Istanbul, by Turkish photographer Mert Cakir. I wasn’t able to ascertain what the protest was about, but I felt this image was a poignant depiction of unrest.

In the foreground, spent tear gas canisters lie where they have fallen, while behind them, the crowd have moved on. A reasonably shallow DoF ensures that the viewer first looks at the in-focus foreground – this is important in establishing a starting point in an image with lots going on.

From a design perspective, this image has very effective rhythm. The audience’s eye is moved along the canisters and then follows the bollards into the crowd. The figures in the mid ground are moving in different directions & this recreates the discord and chaos of a violent protest. The abundance of space in the front of the frame is also effective in identifying the canisters as debris – it suggests a kind of path of destruction- almost as though the canisters are bodies.

In the distance, the crowd is submerged in a fog that *may* be tear gas (in many ways, it does not in fact matter whether it’s tear gas or something else – the viewer makes this connection automatically because of the canisters in the foreground). Significantly, Turkish flags are visible in the background, and similarly to the presence of the canisters and fog, this creates the impression that the protest is anti-Government.

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Anarchist Dance

July 2, 2010

This photo was taken in December 2008, in Greece, following the police shooting of fifteen year old Alexander Grigoropoulos which sparked weeks of riots in Athens.

I wasn’t able to find out who the photographer is, but I really like the image. Presumably the subject has just thrown a projectile, but he really does appear as though he is performing a jubilant dance of defiance in the face of “the man”.  A smokey haze sits across the mid-ground, and behind, an old man watches the proceedings.

I think the image is rich in symbolism- a lone protester strikes at an enemy outside of the frame. It’s important that the protester is alone; it provides a sense that he is outnumbered & the fact that his target is unseen portrays a sense that it is something difficult to define- it’s an image that captures the hostility that the young sometimes direct towards the institutions created by earlier generations.

The technique is simple- a long lens has been used to capture this image, which is evident from the compression of the space between the subject and the background and the way the background has been thrown out of focus- a reasonably fast shutter speed has frozen the protester’s dance, though the lines of his body still portray a sense of movement.

Viewing this image, it is easy to get a sense of the exhilaration the protester must feel, anonymous behind his mask in an act of defiance

Alabama 1984 – James Nachtwey

May 9, 2010

Another shot from James Nachtwey, this time, not from a war zone, but from a prison in Alabama.

A powerfully built African American convict leans against a steel fence, his head bowed.  The design elements in this image are also telling- the shot, taken from a birds eye view perspective seems designed to display the prisoner’s impressive physique, and this component of the image in isolation would not be out of place in a Mapplethorpe image. Almost completely surrounded by concrete, the man’s rich skin tones provide a visually appealing contrast.

Even though the literal interpretation of the image is relevant and journalistically strong, there are some telling symbolic elements which add weight to its message.

As mentioned, it is shot from a birds eye perspective; this makes the man appear subjugated (in stark contrast with his physical appearance). The man’s face is not visible, he has no identity and becomes, to the viewer, a homogenised, black inmate in America;s deep south. His adversity becomes the adversity of his people, and the problem presented in the image becomes a societal one.

Afghanistan 1986- James Nachtwey

May 9, 2010

James Nachtwey, American war photographer and photojournalist, has covered some of the most grisly conflicts of recent decades. The above photograph depicts Afghan Mujahedin at prayer before resuming operations against Russian forces in 1986.

I find it a striking shot predominantly due to its strong design elements. The fighters, kneeling in prayer are framed so that only their knees and hands are visible. Their knees form a strong horizontal line and completely consumes the top third of the image. The greys and blues of their garments are punctuated by their darker hands.

Below their knees, four rifle barrels divide the bottom two thirds of the frame menacingly- these vertical lines are staggered against the Mujahedin’s hands and juxtaposed against the strong horizontals- the geometry of the image, while not created with hard lines is strong and ordered, and the impact is that the Mujahedin appear calm, balanced and courtesy of the rifles; deadly.

I also noted that Nachtwey chose not to include the Mujahedin’s faces- perhaps they would not allow this, however, more likely is that this was deliberately designed to create an air of mystique surrounding the warriors – men without identities, united in a common cause and driven by religious fervor.

No Mean Feet

April 11, 2010

Another Tumblr rip off- same tumblr, so again I can’t credit the artist..

I love the movement in this shot, the repetition of all the dancer’s feet in the air at once – it captures the synchronicity of dance in a way that is difficult in a still shot.Obviously a fast shutter speed has been used to freeze the dancers without any movement blur.

The shot is obviously being lit by the window in the background which provides a very organic, earnest atmosphere – the floor appears nicely textured and gives the audience a sense of the countless hours of training that have been conducted here.

Brand Irony – Sharad Haksar

March 10, 2010

Shot by Sharad Haksar in

This image appeals to me on lots of different levels- the first being the humor – there’s something about toilet humor that transcends culture & the irreverence of global brand denigration (by a third world child) is delicious. The dog standing quizzically, observing the defilement of the wall is brilliant.

The sad irony is that the third world does not piss on first world corporations. More often it’s the other way around.

On a visual level, I like the colours in this shot- the atmosphere of a hot, third world country is captured by the browns and reds. The strong light adds to this effect.