13. In search of meaning

In rememberance of times past

I believe that when a photographer decides to take a particular photograph, it is because something in the scene has connected with something in his past experience, or his personal beliefs, or his inventory of things that matter to him, or all of these things, or something else that exists deep within his psyche; and the scene registers in his mind as a representation of something he feels is important enough to capture and perhaps share. And I also believe that, when we see a photograph that arrests our attention, we are experiencing a similar connection with message encoded in the image. But because we are all different, each of our interpretations will also be different. It is unlikely that you will interpret this image in the same way that I do. And it is possible that you might not connect with it at all. None of that matters. The image exists for those who relate to it.

In this series, it has not been my purpose to coerce anyone into connecting with an image that meant nothing to them; and may never mean anything to them. I have simply tried to present ways of looking at images, studying them, analysing them, decoding them so that the connections we already feel can be understood; because I believe that an image that moves us has the potential to tell us more about ourselves if we can understand how we connected with it.

In this image, there are three elements: a woman, a man (partially obscured by shadow) and a black background. Pay particular attention to the woman. How old is she? (Look at the skin on her face and arms) What kind of person is she? (Look at the clothes she is wearing, the ornament around her neck, how she is wearing her sunglasses). What might she be thinking at this moment? (Look at the expression on her face). Now look at the man. How old is he? (Look at the jacket he is wearing and how he is wearing it). What might the shadow obscuring his face signify?

Now, put these two people together and consider how they might relate. Look at the position of the woman in relation to that of the man. What does that signify to you? What could the black background signify? And what clue can you derive from the title? But remember, what is important here is not what the photographer saw; but what you, the viewer, see. The photographer has simply created a cast; now it’s your turn to create the story. And I’d love to hear it.


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