At times, when practicing street photography, or at least image-making with an interest in visual-culture, the eye notices juxtapositions more easily than before. The philosopher in us might say that these are largely the product of a conceptual attachment to relational differences being the maker of visual meaning and emotional impact. However, for the photographer, the experience of noting juxtapositions is a more experiential in nature. For, we know that a few minutes with a camera and truly open eyes can breathe new life into a once familiar location. Such a state allows us to find wonder within what had just previously been predictable, routine.
If you have a history of reading the photo-blog, you have already seen examples of photos with commentary about how the slightest of visual elements can enhance the visual impact of an image. However, at times, the important visual elements in an image are not so subtle. Rather, like a good gift basket, they give you everything you need right away, providing the user makes time to utilize everything within. With that awkward analogy in mind, we can hesitantly begin an analysis of the photo above.
In short, this photo excels because it shows not only physical contracts between light and shadow, but also juxtaposes visual themes which are relevant to life in coastal Jeolla-do with simple, clean composition. In it, two similar rectangular Styrofoam platforms share the central part of the image. Highlighted against the darkened water, our eyes are naturally drawn to the shape on the right. However, black and white Tri-x 400 film has rendered the green netting on the left-platform a darker tone. As such, it contrasts with its twin, yet also possesses a tone similar to that of the rocky shore to which they both are attached. In doing so, the visual-conceptual differences between “natural” and “artificial” are slightly blurred, and our eyes can more easily navigate the frame. Such subtle distinctions create a simple visual language with which we can contemplate other blending of human life within the ecosystem which this fishing village near Muan undoubtedly relies.
When spending time in places like the one above, it could be to our temporary advantage to be alone, smartphone battery dead, with little but our senses (and hopefully) camera to keep us company. For, with fewer distractions these locations may offer up more contrasts and connections than we otherwise expected.
[Image captured with a Nikon FE2 shooting Tri-x 400 pushed 1 stop.]
(Photo & Text by Marty Miller)