Seeing Not Looking For Photographs

I’ve just been reviewing the photographs I took in Nepal. There are a lot and it will take me a while.

Here is a photo I took of a line of men sitting on a bench in Durbar Square in Patan. I saw the men and I wanted to photograph them and I did.

Once I got the photo up on the computer, I straightened and cropped it. I cannot go back in time to ask why I did not hold the camera even vaguely level when I took the photograph. So with that said, here is the cropped and levelled photo:

As an aside, a couple of days later I went and sat with the men and was given a friendly greeting.

BUT – and this is the point of this post – I missed the shot. Or I missed a shot. My eyes were so tightly focused on the men that I missed what I could have made of it.

It would have had an extra dimension if I had included the statue to the side, as though the statue was the last man on the bench.

Here is the full frame and you will see what I mean, I hope.

If I had just taken a bit more time to look rather than to act on what I saw, then I could have moved the camera over a bit and captured the men and the statue that was a kind of ‘extra’ body contrasting with the men.

Well it isn’t going to happen now unless I happen to be there and the men or other men are sitting there.

How To Look

When I noticed the shot I had missed, I told myself that in future I must spend more time looking for photographs. My wife Tamara is good at seeing photographs. I suffer from being focused on what catches my eye rather than looking around to see what makes a photograph.

By chance (or not) I watched I video of Sean Tucker interviewing Ondrej Vachek, a young man who is drawn to photographing conflict situations. He described how he had set up the LCD and viewfinder on his camera to black and white because it helped him see more clearly.

I am going to try it, but meanwhile here are a couple versions of a scene that I think perhaps makes more of a photograph in black and white. I say that because the way the man on the left is turned to watch whatever attracted his attention in the group photo, is clearer in the black and white version. Or so I think. What do you think?

And that interaction makes it a photograph rather than a snap.

Of course, I am not claiming this is a great photo – but I am saying it has some claim to being a photograph.

4 comments

  1. dapplegrey · March 10

    Interesting thoughts! In some ways I think taking shots of what catches your eye can make for more dynamic photographs because your thoughts don’t get time to interfere with your seeing. I usually prefer shots that I take without having consciously spent time carefully composing them. But that’s my inadequacy as a photographer! (As if I could call myself that). I love the line of seated men – and I love that it’s fresh and uncontrived.

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    • David Bennett · March 10

      Thank you about the shot. I guess it is a balance between being spontaneous and being awake to things around whatever catches ones eye.

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  2. Pat · March 10

    I really liked the photo of the men sitting against a wall. I have always been curious?, maybe intrigued by men sitting together. And I agree that the last shot is better in black and white – it does tell a better story. In the colored photo, my eye was drawn to the red clothing because it is the heaviest presence. That made the group of people touring or talking as the subject. When the red was taken out, the man standing apart from the crowd of people becomes the subject and I became curious about what he was seeing and/or hearing.
    I photo what catches my eye, but think about what characteristics of the subject appeal to me and then try to capture that in my photo. I photograph flowers and landscapes, but I think it is different when doing street photography. I am uncomfortable photographing people so I don’t like to be too obvious by moving around to get the perfect composition. Besides as soon as people know they are being photographed the photo changes. And we don’t have a lot of time to photograph a special moment when people are involved. I am always comforted by reading how many photographs a professional takes to get the few that eye poppers.

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  3. David Bennett · March 10

    Thanks for your input on the photo in black and white – much appreciated.

    I found it was easier to get close to people in Nepal. Often I was just a long arm’s stretch away and didn’t disturb anyone. They were involved in what they are doing and didn’t seem to have their ‘antennae’ on alert so much.

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