I watched a quite interesting documentary last night – Search For The Afghan Girl – about the search a photographer made to find an Afghan girl he once took a now very famous photograph of. The film documents how he came across the then 10 or 11 year old in a refugee camp school in Pakistan in 1985, taking her photo (with her permission) before parting, with her apparently becoming lost to the ravages of a war-torn country. The photographer, Steve McCurry, then spent the next 17 years wondering what became of her, and after a series of failed attempts in the intervening years to find her in Pakistan, made one last attempt in 2002 to do so. National Geographic went along to document his search and reveal the outcome.
National Geographic Magazine – Steve McCurry – 1985
It is well worth watching, and the original National Geographic magazine article that the image accompanied puts it into some context, as well as the story after the story. It serves to highlight the power that a single photograph can have (it moved many people to aid in the relief work in some of the refugee camps), and has been described as National Geographic’s most well known cover photo (June 1985), as well as being one of the most enduring photographs ever taken. Very high praise indeed!
These words by Tom Ang on seeing as a photographer:
It’s not what you see that creates a photograph, but how you see it.
– Tom Ang
– Digital Photography – Step by Step, p.130, Dorning Kindersley, London – 2011 edition
This would seem to be the case if you are mostly interested in the “art” of photography. However if documentary photography (photographing events, subjects and scenes as they really are) is your focus then there is likely to be less freedom or scope for interpretation.
I’m finding the book quoted from above (a recent gift) to be a very useful and practical guide on photography. It is almost unbelievably densely packed with detail and information on virtually every aspect of the photographic process.
So I would like what I learn on the Art Of Photography course to inform what I am learning in another related field I am very interested in, that of CG modelling and animation. Both photography and CG animation/rendering ultimately have the goal of putting pretty pictures (or otherwise) up on a screen or down on paper. So taking the idea of the effects aperture size has on image depth of field, I created a scene where this might be tested in a CG environment. The scene is of a field of piggy banks, modelled, shaded and lit by myself. I wanted to see at a basic level the quality of image rendered given the different aperture sizes and discern if any other “real world’ effects might be realised in software (Luxology modo 601)
Despite my efforts at making the necessary software settings needed to closely simulate “real world” conditions, the effect is still quite artificial. Whilst making changes to aperture size was easy, the ability to change the shutter speed was non-existent, seemingly fixed at a movie film speed of 24 frames per second. Interesting to experiment with though, and I guess my CG skills still have a long way to go towards improving.
I find this series of photographs, of children posing with their most prized possessions, quite touching. The appeal has got nothing to do with the framing, composition or quality of the photos, it’s just the sheer humanity present in these little faces. I think this is one of the things that makes for great photography, when it enables a connection between the subject and the viewer to be built.
(The comments made by readers of the story make for some interesting reading too!)