08. Non-visual qualities

So far in this exercise, I have concentrated on the purely visual attributes of the images I’ve looked at and tried to point out how to decipher the meaning encoded in their selection and composition in the frame. But the previous image left me perplexed because though I had managed to extract a story from it, I wasn’t confident that this alone explained why I thought it was a good photograph.

This image comprises two distinct parts: a couple walking along a street and a darker area which appears to be dominated by a hand. The couple are in an area of the photograph that appears to be faded, like an old photograph that has been exposed to the light. The girl appears to be talking to the boy who is looking off to his left. Neither of them appears to have noticed the hand in the dark area ahead of them.

In addition to all the visual elements and the effects used to create this image, it has another ingredient that the viewer might be able to feel rather than see explicitly. It has tension.

The underlying meaning of this image is very similar to that of the first one we looked at – the yacht in the in the vast expanse of sea with the symbolic wave looming over it. Only this image tells that same story of imminent and unseen danger more powerfully because (a) we can see the potential victims here whereas we couldn’t see the crew on the yacht; and (b) we could see that the “wave” wasn’t really a wave in the first picture so the danger wasn’t real danger; but here, the hand lurking in the shadows looks like a real hand, perhaps concealing a weapon, about to strike when the couple are in range.

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