My house is filled with photography books and as I studied this wonderful art I came across a few thought provoking pictures. I love photos that make you feel a little uncomfortable, sad or just angry, pictures you can’t take your eyes off but you’re not sure why, pictures that look like they are about to come to life or even speak to you. If an image can spark real emotions you will definitely remember it.
Art is subjective, you don’t have to like it or understand it, you just need to feel something towards it, even if you can’t express it in words.
Here are my top 3 thought provoking photographs:
Young, landless girl, Parana, Brazil 1996 (Above)
This is the face of a little girl from a landless family. Families have gathered at the side of a main road while waiting for the occupation of land. Her face is famous and has become a symbol of all those left behind by the rush of globalization. You can look away but her inquiring eyes won’t stop looking.
When I see this image I often feel guilty for not always appreciating what I am fortunate to have and sadness at the sorrow that faces so many.
Sebastião Salgado is a photojournalist and his work powerfully expresses the suffering of the homeless and downtrodden, he has many similar pictures that have a lingering effect, definitely worth a look.
To create a composition like this you will need a standard or long focal length lens, known as a portrait lens. This will allow you to really close in on the subject, blur out the detail in the background and focus on those all-important eyes, the windows to the soul.
Louisville, Kentucky, 1937 – Margaret Bourke-White (Above)
This is a line of African Americans queuing for food after a flood, they are in desperate need of help and this line is going no where fast, unlike the white family in the poster behind them, who are happily driving their shiny new car ‘World’s highest standard of living’.
In this photograph the subject is saying one thing and the background another – juxtaposition.
For juxtaposition to work the viewer needs to get the point straight away, so you really need to nail your composition, for this picture it is a clear-cut poverty and affluence.
I guess times have moved on since then, but I think its fair to say that this segregation and injustice still exists and we are still learning from the mistakes of the past. Occasionally I will read articles of inequality or racism and it is always this image that springs to mind.
To try this style of composition run with the moto opposites attract for example rich/poor, East/West, happy/sad.
Strip No 5, Dealer 1999 – Jemima Stehli (Above)
Who’s really calling the shots?
Jemima Stehli is a British feminist artist; she has made several photographic naked self-portraits where she blurs the line between subject and object. This is an image from her series of shots called ‘Strip’. She invited influential male figures to her studio and before them she would remove her cloths. The men were given 10 shots each and they would choose when they took them, the catch is that they too would be in the image. This resulted in an uneasy oscillation of power and control.
You would think it was Stehli feeling self-conscious but look closely and you will see the sweat on the mans brow, his fist nervously clenched and his timing of when to take the shot, notice his face is partially covered.
All these men were asked to enter Jemima Stehli’s studio, this is her domain where she feels comfortable and in total control, look how she beautifully balances on one leg. She may be the one without clothes but who’s really in charge here?
I really like this series of images as I think it shows a vulnerable side to the often stronger portrayed male and a power and confidence to women that needs to be seen more.
I will leave it up to you how you recreate this one!
I would say you need a rawness to the image which could be achieved with stark lighting and a power play situation.