September 2008


In researching portrait photography, I came across Richard Avedon. I had seen his fashion shots before, but had no idea how deeply emotional and raw some of his work is. I am speaking specifically of the collection from “In the American West”. This collection of portraits is not flattering in the typical sense: the daily lives of people living in sometimes less than ideal situations are portrayed in stark black and white images. The white background places the emphasis of the image strictly on the subject and his or her expression. The collection does not feature photos of smiling and excited individuals, but rather sullen, static faces engrossed in a somber stare.

Avedon is able to tell the story of each individual without using words: the pictures show the viewer only the essential details of the person’s life, yet these details are enough to deduct the individual’s personality and parts of his or her daily routine. The lack of makeup, costume and background allow the viewer to emotionally connect with the subject because each subject is portrayed naturally: the photo represents real life rather than a fabricated studio scene.

A fall webworm moth rests on a verbena bloom at Lee State Natural Area. Photo by Laura Kirk.

A fall webworm moth rests on a verbena bloom at Lee State Natural Area. Photo by Laura Kirk.

The state of South Carolina has introduced a photo contest recently. The contest requires people to visit state parks and photograph their experiences and sightings. This photography ranges in skill level from professional to amateur, thus the resulting collection of photographs varies in quality. This particular image caught my eye because of the shallow depth of field, contrast and impact of being an unusual type of moth. The photographer must have used lens with a longer focal length with a wider aperture. Some of the other images include instances of stop-action and more depth of field. While these photos are not journalistic or altogether newsworthy, they do demonstrate different techniques of capturing and composing photography. The images that capture interesting moments do however relate to photojournalists in that the photographer was able to anticipate a particular action by an animal or person within the park and take the photo at the prime moment.