Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Pick of the Week: Waiting for What at the Bag Stand?


For my Pick of the Week this week, I've chosen a photograph that has attracted a few interesting comments. When I saw the scene and made the photo, I just assumed it was a dad and son waiting - perhaps for mum - by a bag stand outside a shop.

Then when I got it onto the computer, I noticed the facial expressions: the man seems to be hot and bothered or tired or...? and the boy is either staring in a bored fashion or isn't happy about something. So I called it Waiting for What at the Bag Stand? Once I posted it I got some lovely comments and a few differing interpretations. One or two people agreed it was a father and son waiting for someone. Someone else, however, suggested that the man looks as though he's crying. And given that the boy looks a little unhappy as well, it's possible to think that they have had an argument or that something else has happened to upset them both.

Of course we will never know will we? It is a moment that has come and gone and only really exists now because I was there and chose to record it with my camera. And, in a real sense, that is the magic of street photography: the photographer is a witness to a succession of seemingly ordinary, yet fleeting moments. Here I think of a quote I like to use often: There are no ordinary moments. We usually hve just a few seconds at most to sum up a scene and decide to make the photograph or not. In that time we can make some assumptions about what is going on, who is who, and the rest.

But, that is all we can do most of the time: make assumptions. What is really going on, who is really who, and the true meaning of the moment will always remain a mystery. Perhaps that is as it should be. After all, we will all make our own assumptions, jump to our own conclusions, when we view a photograph, won't we? And I think this is the case even if the photographer captions the image or explains to us what is going on. It's like history in that way don't you think? It's all very subjective when it comes to whose stories are told and indeed if those stories are "the truth" at all.

So, what is the "truth" of this photo? As I said, we can never know. Or rather, let's put it another way. We will never know the facts of this situation; but can we know the truth? I think we can; it's just that the truths (yes truths, plural) will vary, depending on what the image tells each individual viewer. It is my belief that if a photograph is made with goodwill and with honesty and a commitment to recording what is before the eye of the photographer, the resulting image will speak for itself, give its own story. It will tell its own truth to each and every viewer who looks at it and asks what's going on here.

I don't like to use clich├ęs, but perhaps Frederick R. Barnard was only half right when he coined the phrase A picture paints a thousand words.  Perhaps we should add, "But the particular words painted will vary".

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