Evening on Whitehall Road

This is not the photograph I would have taken if I had had more time to compose more carefully. But I like it. I need to reflect on how accident has shaped an image that I find quite satisfying.

The photo about was snatched. I noticed the two figures a moment too late to capture them as they crossed in the little pool of light which they are just leaving. If I had had even a moment to spare I might have stepped forward to exclude post for the traffic lights from the frame. But then I would still have had figures tiny in the distance.

Passers-by were too infrequent at that time of the evening for me to go and spend time exploiting that patch of light. I do intend to return to the scene. I will think on these things when I do. But in the meantime I have, partly by accident, ended up with a photograph I find really satisfying: a picture of light and dark, companionship and solitude, old and new, development and its arrest. On the far side of the road is a gap where old buildings were torn down to make way for new which, after 2008, never got built.

These are the same two young women seen in the distance in the photo above. This is taken a moment or two later but it is a photo that I would have quickly discarded, if it were not that I wanted to reflect on my own photographic habits. Gone is the gorgeous orange, the contrasty light. The figures are viewed from an angle (rather than frontally). There is a sense of proper distance. Composition in general is unexceptional, hardly worthy of note. I am tempted to say, unsuccessful. (Especially the pole emerging from the top of the head.) This concern with composition probably signals the sense in which I am not a quiet photographer and this might be considered a “quiet” photograph. Perhaps we need another example…

I had noted the exciting light when looking along the road (Whitehall Road), and was reflecting on these questions when another figure approached. This time I photographed her in a style which many would recognise as very much my own. This was the result…

Is that a good photo? The face does not stand out against the background quite as much as I would like. I could use Photoshop to drop the building a tone or so. But as it stands it is a straight uncropped snapshot. As so often in my snapshots, the geometry seems a bit exaggerated. The diagonal of the pavement goes straight to the solar plexus, helped by the orange wall on the right. Hands and eyes show us exactly what she is concentrating on. The little figure in white is caught in the sun and balances the white of her phone. I even like the neat energy of her slightly bent knees and the geometrical shapes behind her.

Not a great photograph. But it if I pursue my project of photographing the area, in this period of ‘arrested development’, this photo might make the final edit. It is says something about women walking home in pleasant but quite lonely parts of the inner city. It reminds one of the role of mobile phones in offering something like companionship and safety.


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