The street photograph I’m going to be analysing this week has been sent in by Michał Koralewski and it’s a photo called ‘The Vanishing Town’. I’ll be analysing the photo on the criteria of point of view, focal point, composition, exposure, subject matter and mood. As usual, where I can I’ll be making suggestions for any way I think the photo can potentially be improved across these factors. You can have your own street photo analysed for Crit My Pic by reading through the submission rules listed below and then emailing your photo to us.
Point of View
Michał has opted to present us with a point of view that I think is slightly reminiscent of a landscape photo. He’s shot this photo from a fairly wide perspective, to give us an archetypal ‘looking down the street’ scene. In fact, were it not for the square 1:1 crop that Michał has used, I would describe this point of view as highly cinematic. Even with the square crop, this still has the ‘feel’ of a photo heavily influenced by cinema, and seems very much like a ‘setting the scene’ type of shot. As I’ll mention later, Michał’s choice of point of view for ‘The Vanishing Town’ has an impact on his focal point and subject matter as the shot is very wide. I certainly feel there is a place for shots like these in street photography though, and this arty, cinematic style is a welcome departure from what we are often used to seeing in street photography.
I’ve already said the point of view in ‘The Vanishing Town’ impacts upon the focal point. How so? Because this is a wide landscape style shot, our focal point(s) end up appearing quite small in the frame. In this case, the focal point is the three people walking down the pavement away from Michał’s lens. In a wide landscape style street scene shot it’s very difficult to feature people as a large focal point in the frame owing to physical constraints – people aren’t the size of buildings! The only way to do this would be to have a figure or part of a figure in the foreground (perhaps a leg or a head) and the rest of the wide street scene in the background. So Michał wasn’t left with loads of options for the type of shot he wanted. While his three characters can be identified quite easily as the focal point, I do feel that they are challenged for attention by other elements in the photo. The most obvious of these elements to me is the large lamp post in the foreground. When I talk about composition later on I’ll look in further depth at how the lamp post and the figures interact with one another, but for the purposes of the focal point discussion I feel that the lamp post is a slight distraction. I understand why it is there, but it does vie for our attention. I feel perhaps the figures as a focal point could have been further enhanced through the use of a regular landscape crop to this photo rather than a square one, and again, this centres around the discussion of composition.
Michał displays an excellent understanding of composition in ‘The Vanishing Town’. With the ‘rule of thirds’ grid lines overlaid you can see how he’s placed the first lamp post exactly on a one third vertical line, and the right most of his subjects on a one third vertical line too. The result is that the dominant vertical of the lamp post is nicely offset to unbalance the photo in a visually pleasing way. The figures grouped around the other one third vertical are mirrored to the left of the lamp post, so the two main points of interest in the photo are both sited on the one third verticals. Going further, the end of the decorative light fitting at the top of the lamp post ends exactly on one of the rule of thirds horizontal lines. This makes for a wonderfully neat and precise composition.
Not only does Michał use the rule of thirds well here, but he also demonstrates to us that he is adept at using leading lines and perspective too. The leading lines of the pavement lead up diagonally from the bottom of the frame towards our subjects in the distance, and the line of lamp posts create a great imaginary leading line in the sky too. All these leading lines help to generate a fantastic sense of perspective in this shot, whilst also drawing our eyes towards the figures as a focal point. This perspective effect also helps to lend depth to the shot, which helps to make it more immersive as a photo.
I mentioned earlier that I feel the lamp and the figures both vie for attention as the focal points of this shot. I like how the lamp starts to lead the viewer’s eye across the frame, and I like the mirroring and interplay between the figures and the lamp post on corresponding one thirds lines. However I still feel it is problematic. Something I have considered is how ‘The Vanishing Town’ might look in a more conventional 3:2 aspect ratio frame, or even a more rectangular ‘cinematic’ crop. What I envisage is a larger area of negative space on the right hand side of the frame, which would encourage the viewer to look more towards the left where they may focus more on our figures. Michał might lose the positioning of the lamp post on a one third vertical, but I think the positive effects of the leading lines and perspective might be heightened, and it would feel less like the lamp post was challenging the viewer’s attention on the right hand side of the frame.
I think Michał’s exposure in ‘The Vanishing Town’ is absolutely excellent. He hasn’t fallen into the trap of wanting to make things too punchy or contrast-y, so we’re left with lovely subtle shadows with detailed gradients. The highlights too are perfectly matched to the content of the photo – we see just enough detail in the mist without it being a sea of white or grey. Monochrome is the ideal choice for this shot as it fits perfectly with the mood of the photo, allowing us to focus solely on the quality of light in the shot, which in this case is the amazing and ethereal mist which has descended over ‘The Vanishing Town’.
The subject matter in ‘The Vanishing Town’ is quite interesting. Not only do we have our main focal point of the figures walking down the street in this shot, but we also have the town itself as the subject matter. By using a wide point of view, Michał lets the town and street scene play its own role in the photo which is impressive. Using elements of the world around you is great demonstration of a street photographer’s creativity and ability to think outside the box, and an awareness of one’s surroundings is something that is always fantastic to see in street photos. That said of course, as I’ve already mentioned, I think Michał does need to do a little more to emphasise the three figures walking down the street as a more obvious focal point as I think it would make for a stronger and more memorable photo.
I really like the mood in Michał’s ‘The Vanishing Town’. The three figures and the town street enveloped in mist lend this street photograph a real sense of mystery. The mist descending upon the traditional cobbled street and the ornate lamp posts makes this photo really evocative too – if the street was any narrower and winding I’d say it looked like a scene from a Charles Dickens novel! With the exception of the clothes worn by the three figures, this could easily be a scene from any time in the last 100 plus years or so, which is quite amazing really. The only way I can think of to improve or alter the mood would be if we had only a single person as the figure in the shot’s focal point. That might make things appear even more ominous and foreboding than they already are. I’m really picking holes here though, as I think the mood in this shot is already fantastic.
Overall, I’m impressed by Michał’s work with ‘The Vanishing Town’. I like how this street photograph crosses over the realm into an art style shot, and it’s certainly a photo I don’t think would look out of place hanging on a wall like a landscape photo. The cinematic and landscape-esque feel of it also marks a nice departure from the standard style of street photo we are used to seeing. As I’ve already mentioned, I do feel that this shot needs a more clearly defined focal point in order to be a stronger street photograph. As a pure street photo it just needs an extra little something to focus our attention on the human element in the shot I think. Michał shows a real talent in creating a beautiful artistic photo, and taking advantage of his surroundings and the natural environment and light too. This is sure to stand him in good stead in the future.
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).