Crit My Pic – “Untitled” by Clay Lomneth
Crit My Pic has returned! For our first post since we restarted this feature I’m going to be looking at Clay Lomneth’s street photograph which he actually sent in for review way back in September 2014 when Crit My Pic was on a hiatus, which is why it doesn’t have a title. I’ll be reviewing his street photo across a variety of parameters, such as point of view, composition, colour, subject matter and mood. So read on for my analysis, and if you’d like me to analyse your photo, check out our rules for submitting your photo to Crit My Pic, and then get in touch!
Point of View
The first thing I’d like to say about this image is that I think it is a really exceptional street photograph. I love how Clay has taken an abstract approach, and has trained his lens on the ground, and these people’s feet, which makes for a really interesting and alternative view point, making his shot instantly memorable and helping it to stand out from the crowd. Clay showed real creativity and bravery to cut off the two figures at the waist, and leave just their legs, and for this I commend him!
The first thing my eye is drawn to in this photograph (and the part of the image I call the focal point) is the big yellow arrow. The arrow catches my eye straight away for two reasons. Firstly, because it is a strong, simple graphical shape with powerful geometric lines, and these always stand out – think of how road signs are designed around these principles for maximum legibility and to grab attention. The second reason the arrow stands out to me is because of its colour – the splash of bright vivid yellow really contrasts with the dull blue-grey of the pavement, and this makes the arrow-head ‘pop’ within the frame.
Drawing me in as it did, I began to study the yellow arrow in more detail, and at this point I noticed the footprint impression taken out of it, and then the brilliant yellow footprint in the foreground of the photo. Yellow is the only vibrant colour in this photo, which makes its presence all the more effective. Clay has filled the rest of his image with hues on the darker end of the colour spectrum, with the black trousers and shoes of the figures, and the murky pavement. The use of colour in this shot is very skillful, with the yellow footprint from the wet paint so clearly defined against the dingy coloured pavement. The only other colour with anything approaching vibrancy is the red hue found on the fast food takeway bag, and this matches nicely with the yellow, as both red and yellow are found close to one another on the colour wheel spectrum, making their combination here harmonious, adding balance to the photo.
Beginning to look deeper into the photo, I’ve drawn a line to show the route my eye took as I moved from the footprint impression in the arrow to the actual footprint, and I began to imagine the story behind this photo. Sure enough, right beside the arrow is a figure with their leg bent and checking their shoe in a tell-tale sign that they’ve stepped in the wet paint from the arrow. Amazingly, not only is there the raised shoe as a point of interest, but also right beside the shoe is the dangling take-away bag which I noticed after I’d seen the shoe! Standing next to the figure with the paint on their shoe is another figure who’s a little more mysterious – they’re standing very straight and still, and almost formally, which is in total contrast to the dynamism of the other figure balancing on one leg.
The mood of this photo is what makes it a really strong street photo. By choosing to show only the legs of the figures Clay has injected a real element of mystery and surrealness into the photo, and sets the imagination racing. Who are these people? The smart shoes and suit trousers of the figure on the right suggests they may work in an office, and the same may be true for the figure on the left with the paint on their shoe. But the figure on the left has scruffier shoes, and also a stain on their trousers. Do both of these characters work in the same office? If they do work in the same office, with the same dress code, then their body language fits their presentation – the figure standing very formally is neat and well presented, while the one who stood in the paint is much scruffier. What I particularly love about the mood of this as a street photo though is the strong element of black humour that runs through it. After we’ve seen the paint footprint we can imagine exactly what has happened, but the fact the culprit (or the victim) is shown in the frame sheepishly examining the evidence of their accident adds a great element of humour to the shot.
Clay’s work with composition in this photo is truly superb, and it’s only when you examine the photo in great depth that you realise the subtle compositional tricks he’s applied to give this photo visual impact. You can see from my annotations that I’ve added a ‘rule of thirds’ guide frame over the photo, and this shows how Clay has placed both of the figures at the one-third and two-third points in the frame, which gives the composition more power. The yellow footprint is just off the centre of the frame, in its own sea of negative space in the foreground, allowing it to really stand out and dominate the front portion of the photo.
I’ve added a golden triangle overlay (the blue circle on the intersecting lines) to show how Clay has followed the golden triangle approach to composition perfectly in this shot. According to this principle, the focal point of an image should be placed on or near the point of the golden triangle, as this makes for the most visually attractive composition. If we apply this to Clay’s photo, we can see that his focal point (the yellow arrow head) fits perfectly at the golden triangle point! The point of the yellow arrow ends exactly at the golden triangle intersection, and the arrow stops exactly in line with the standing leg of the balancing figure.
Emerging from the top right corner of the frame in a perfect position is a hand belonging to the right figure. If we examine it closely, we can see how the line formed from the finger actually guides us into the photo if we start at this area of the photo. The finger is pointing downwards towards the figure’s feet, and the feet in turn point diagonally across the frame. The figure’s shoes point in exactly the same direction as the arrow line and the pavement line, creating a smooth flow which leads the eye across the photo from right to left. The leading line of the arrow is mirrored by the line in the pavement, which runs at an almost parallel.
Clay has clearly organised this photo brilliantly in terms of leading lines. Linking the two figures is an invisible triangle created by the edge of the yellow arrow and boundary of the line in the pavement. This triangle forms an area of negative space which joins the two characters.
I thought Clay’s photo was a great street photo when I first saw it, and when I began to examine it in depth I was really impressed by how he had arranged his shot so precisely in accordance with all of the traditional composition rules and guidelines. The only way I could think of improving this shot would be with some more dramatic lighting – perhaps some direct low sunlight streaming across the photo from right to left to match the flow of the arrow. But I’m really nitpicking here – Clay has made a superb photo which really captures the essence of street photography for me, and he should be very proud of his achievement!
Want to Submit a photo? Here are the Rules
- Please submit one of your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. If we can make this a successful long-term feature I’d love for you to submit a second photo after 6 months or so, in order to see your progression, but for the time being please, submit one photo per person.
- Please give your photo a title (so I have a way of referring to it in the analysis).
- Let us know if you want to remain anonymous. We will default to publishing your name in the analysis. If you would rather remain anonymous please tell us.
- Photo critiques will be published in public in the ‘Crit My Pic’ section of the streethunters.net blog. This is allows all streethunters readers to learn from the analysis.
- The date your photo is published will depend on the volume of submissions we receive. If we have lots of submissions it will take me a while to get to your photo, if we don’t, then it will get analysed sooner! For the time being, we plan to publish one photo analysis every two weeks on a Thursday.
- Please submit your photo in JPG format, max image width 2048 (I may want to zoom in to check out some details).