Friday, 23 November 2012

Statutory Obligations

Nikon D700  F/5.6  1/30s  ISO-400  PrAP  EV +0.7  95mm
When it comes to me and city statues, we have a sort of love-hate relationship.

While our sullen stone men (and busty women) are not the most obliging of subjects, give or take a boob or two, they are everywhere, honestly, you can't turn around without another of the things staring marbly, metalically and occasionally woodenly back at you.

The original of the shot above
In this shot, it's not even a proper 'official' statue - just some restaurant's attempt to attract our attention, although who would be tempted in for a curry or a Greek after contemplating this maudlin soul I do not know.

Be that as it may, there he was, and that's what I decided to shoot, so let's look at my options. Here's the original, on the left.

There were two major problems with this shot. The first was that the lighting was too flat, not allowing the curves and corners of the sculpture to stand out enough. And the second was that there was just too much darn texture! The surface of this piece is literally riddled with texture. So much so that any attempt to increase the contrast results in a bit of a crazy mess.

Too much 'happening' on the left
My attempt above, and I wouldn't classify it as anything beyond an attempt is where I stopped trying, for better or for worse. It's stronger, contrastier, punchier than the original, but whether it's actually an improvement is anyone's guess (opinion).

In terms of the compositions I had to play with after the event, you can see what I had below.

This first similar shot isn't bad, but what I liked about the original is the fact that the picture is pretty much diagonally divided 50-50 in to stoney grey and vibrant red. In this other one the red wasn't as 'coherent', being spit up by the window and I didn't go with it in the end.

Not enough 'happening' anywhere
This shot on the left shows a different approach, taking the shot far more head on, and again it works on a certain level but just wasn't' hard-hitting enough for my liking when I looked back over then. It does, on the other hand, give more of the context of the restaurant, which is completely missing from the first shot, which could almost be anywhere.

The final thing I did was lose the rolled up red parasols altogether and just concentrate on the sculpture itself. You can decide for yourselves of course, but for me it was lacking both that sense of place (i.e. the context of the restaurant) plus that contrasting slap in the face of colour to liven the shot up a bit.

Fair enough, but so what?!
It's not always easy to inject a bit of your own personality into shots of statues, which is one of the reasons I photograph them far less than I could, living in this statue-rich city. I'm not happy with just taking record shots of other people's work, no matter how masterly it might be. I have to add something; the challenge is working out what that 'something' is going to be.

It's usually a part of the environment, be it an unusual frame you can shoot through or something strange you can fit into the same shot.

I have taken at least two utterly obscene shots of soldiers (stone ones) with stiff sword hilts which, if shot from just the right angle... but I'll leave you to discover those in good time if I'm ever passing by there again!

The real thing to watch out for is boring boring (yep, worth repeating) shots of other people's endeavours. I try my best not to tell you what to do, but I would exhort you to always try and be original, which means doing something to shots of artwork if you truly want to call the shot your own.


* Sab Will runs Photo and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Contact me directly for photo tours, interviews, exhibitions, etc.

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