This week’s Crit My Pic is a review of a street photo by Jorge Balarin. I’m still working my way through the submissions we received while Crit My Pic was ‘off the air’, and Jorge sent his photo in March of this year, so this photo doesn’t have a title. Jorge’s shot is going to be analysed across 6 different criteria – I’ll say what I like about the photo, and provide any suggestions I can think of if the photo can be improved in any way. As usual, if you’d like to submit a photo for me to review, please read the rules below for submitting a street photo to Crit My Pic, and then get in touch with us!
Point of View
Firstly I want to say that I really like the point of view in this shot. It’s really wide for a street photo, almost moving into the landscape photography genre. This is unusual, and it’s this uniqueness that I really like to see in a street photo. Jorge has a high vantage point, looking down on the scene and his subjects from a bridge or some kind of elevated walkway. It’s always good to see a photo that takes a look at the world from a slightly different angle, as it often shows us a point of view that we don’t normally take notice of, as well as making regular scenes look different. In this case it’s nice to feel like a giant as people scurry along the walkway beneath us!
Normally when I write my ‘Crit’ for a photo I talk about the focal point of the image after the point of view, because the focal point tends to be the part of the image I think about first. However, in the case of Jorge’s photo I’m going to look at composition first, because the composition plays such an important part in the overall power of the image. When I first saw this photo, my eyes were instantly drawn to the walkway that extends from the bottom of the frame. In this photo, Jorge has provided us with a textbook example of the one point perspective effect in a real life setting. The walkway disappears into a vanishing point in the middle of the shot 1/3 of the way from the top of the frame. Jorge has used leading lines for compositional effect superbly in this shot – notice how the lines of the edges of the walkway actually draw us into the photo, ‘leading’ us in to discover its depths.
We’ve got some great geometrical effects going on in this photo – not only do we have the ‘vertical’ lines of the walkway, but we also have its horizontal lines too. There’s also the strong horizontal line of the bridge and the horizon itself. With the rule of thirds grid I’ve superimposed over the top of the shot, you can see that Jorge’s bridge and horizon line fall beautifully on the top third of the horizontal thirds lines. So the leading lines of the walkway actually lead us towards this precisely placed horizon line or vanishing point. This shows a great skill and appreciation for how to create a nicely geometrically balanced photograph. Dominating the sky in the top third of the frame is the leaden grey blob of the tower extending out of the horizon. If we re-apply the rule of thirds grid and also a golden section overlay (the blue circle) we can see that the this tower actually almost matches both of these points. Again, this shows an excellent awareness of how to arrange a shot for the most attractive visual balance in order to create an engaging photo.
Having looked at the composition in this photo, I began to start thinking again about the focal point of the shot. I think perhaps the problem Jorge has had with this photo is that his attention to his composition has come at the detriment of giving his image a strong focal point. I have mentioned above that the leading lines of the walkway make for a very powerful part of the image, and it’s true that they do. However, they are not a major focal point. The grey hulking mass of the tower block is very strong in this image, but I don’t feel it is distinctive or noteworthy enough to be the key focal point. Probably the two people standing on the walkway closest to the bottom of the frame come closest to being a distinctive focal point – they are, after all, by far the largest recognisable human figures in the photo. They are placed along the important leading lines of the walkway too, which helps to draw attention to them. However, I think they’re still just that little bit too small in the frame, and they have to vie for our attention with that grey tower. I can totally appreciate what Jorge has aimed for here, and I really like to see extra wide shots with small figures – I just feel this could really do with the figures being a stronger focal point. Perhaps Jorge could have shot them slightly lower in the frame so perspective made them appear bigger (though they shouldn’t be too close the bottom of the frame as it would be distracting). It may also be interesting to see if a single figure might prove to be stronger focal point in this scene – as they may stand out more as a lonesome individual against the sidewalk. However, perhaps neither of these approaches would be enough to take attention away from the tower, which is not interesting enough to dominate the shot, but is too much of a mass to ignore. Either way, I feel that this shot is lacking in a real ‘human interest’ focal point that could strongly define it as a street photo.
I really like the colours in Jorge’s photograph. I love the mix of muted green and blue hues, and they really emphasise the natural elements in the photo. As both colours are found in nature, it is unsurprising that when they feature alongside one another the combination is a harmonious one – this is supported by the fact that both hues are located right next to one another on the colour wheel. I particularly like how the line of walkway divides the green grass and trees from the blue/grey of the river. It’s also interesting that the tower is a bluey grey colour too as it means the man-made elements of the shot become associated with the blue/grey hues, and the greens comes to represent nature. So we actually have a nice divide, with the right side of the image feeling quite warm and natural thanks to the dominance of the green hues, while the left side and top of the frame has a much cooler and more man-made feel to me which is a nice juxtaposition. I’m glad Jorge didn’t boost the saturation of the colours at all. It’s very tempting to make colours ‘pop’ but I think the fact Jorge left them muted really adds to melancholic mood of the shot, and the photo is much better for it.
Subject matter is arguably often closely linked to focal point, but despite the complications I’ve mentioned with Jorge’s focal point above, I actually think this shot has a defined subject matter. Geometry plays an incredibly strong part in this photo, so much so that I’d say this shot has a very fine art feel. The geometric power of this photo actually reminded me of Andreas Gursky’s work, particularly his most famous photograph, Rhein II. With the mix of strong geometric man-made lines and nature, I felt like a powerful theme in this photo was that of the relationship between man and nature. I like how the bold lines of the walkway scythe through the green grass, and the way the tower springs out of the trees. We also have the mountains in the distance reaching across the bridge to link the tower to the river. The ant-like figures also play on the link between nature and man, and they are dominated by both the grass and trees and the tower.
The point of view and minimalistic simplicity of this shot all contrive to give it an air of melancholy. I feel that the wideness of the shot combined with the high point of view give the photo a very detached feel. We really have the sense of the photographer watching in solitude as the world passes by. I actually really like lonely melancholic photos like this. They make a nice change from the often hectic street photos you see, and a shots in this style make for a nice change of pace and tone.
I have always liked geometry and graphical symmetry in photos, and I think this shot has that in abundance. I think it makes a good ‘art’ photo. However, as a street photo I do feel that it is somewhat lacking. In think in his devotion to composition Jorge has become a little distracted from something that defines great street photography for me, and that is a clear focal point. I just don’t feel that the two figures on the path make a strong enough focal point, and none of the other objects in the shot are quite interesting enough to be a focal point either. I think Jorge has hit on a good concept with the point of view and perspective here, and I’d love to see some further developments on this theme, or perhaps a project based around perspective and aerial point of view – a ‘looking across from bridges’ project maybe? With a stronger focal point in the form of more distinctive human element in the photo I think we could have a great street photo.
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).