Thinking about composition

Thinking about composition when photographing


Kike Arnal - In the shadows of power: Poverty in Washington DC


When reading this image I see a homeless man isolated at the edge of the frame. Instead of looking into the image and into an empty space, he is looking away. The edge of the frame for the viewer in this instance, symbolises a wall or barrier, and results in the man looking trapped and in a corner with nowhere to go. The sign on the wall points in the direction of the most powerful building in America, the White House. Arnal has split this image into thirds whilst also having a frame within a frame to add an interesting composition to the photograph. We are looking down on the man, as if we were walking by like any other homeless person we see. This composition gives the viewer a point of relation, whereas, if the photograph was taken from a lower perspective, it may have a more intrusive feel, resulting in the viewer feeling uncomfortable.


When I look at this image I feel like I am in the audience at the theatre and this is the show I'm going to see. The three homeless people sleeping in front of the National Theatre in Washington are you using the entrance and shelter, to protect them from the elements.. The ceiling lights them up like a theatres stage lighting, which in the way symbolises that they are part of a performance. The square on composition and typographic wide-angle framing of the image, captures the whole story resulting in a interesting image to view. It's this 'look at this' statement that I'm trying to create in my images of the homeless.






The side on composition that Arnal has adopted for this image puts us alongside the individuals sleeping on the street. The low down perspective create a intermit experience as it makes us feel like we are there witnessing the situation for ourselves. If the image was photograph from a higher perspective it would draw different emotions from the viewer and we would be observing the photograph rather than experiencing it. 

When we see homeless people on the street they are often sitting on floor. We have become numb to seeing it. This is something I am wanting to avoid in this photographic series. I would like to bring the viewer to the same level as people on the street and view the issue from their perspective. I have been working on this composition in my photographs, trying to get low down to the floor to take the viewer experience issues at street level. 



Straight-on perspective is characterized by a shallow depth of field, the absence of a vantage point, and the presence of a centralized, forward-facing object. While its counterpart, linear perspective, is used to render a sense of depth in a painting or drawing, straight-on perspective makes images appear flat; objects remain on the picture’s surface rather than recede into the background. This composition is most often employed by architectural photographers, such as pioneering documentarians Bernd and Hilla Becher, who captured frontal views of industrial buildings in order to convey a sense of the camera’s neutrality. Their influence can be seen in the work of their student, Düsseldorf photographer Andreas Gursky, who digitally stitches multiple shots together to create photographs that, from afar, appear flattened and nearly abstract.



A group of artists, including Andreas Gursky, Candida Höfer, Thomas Struth, Axel Hütte, and Thomas Ruff, who studied under Bernd and Hilla Becher at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf (Dusseldorf Art Academy) in the 1970s and rose to prominence in the 1980s. Responding in part to the concerns of the New Topographics, these artists’ works are characterized by a sober, documentary quality, “straight on” (and often expansive) "topographic" views of landscapes, a focus on cityscapes or interior environments, and the minimization of the human figure. Since the 1990s, aided by new technical capabilities in digital photography and printing, a hallmark of the group’s photographs has been a combination of dizzying detail and monumental size, giving the works an immersive quality and contributing to a blurring of the boundaries between photography and painting.


My work

In my images I have taken aspects from the different photographers I have researched and implemented it into my work. I have taken the intimacy of Kirk Arnal's work and combined it with the Dusseldorf straight on perspective to create cemetery and drama to my work. I am trying to make the viewer see the environments in which homeless people in manchester find themselves in by photographing the places where they sleep and the belongings they leave behind.