I love photographing people, and I really love photographing people in the landscape or scene. As part of the scene, they bring life and meaning to the image, but do I need to show their face for that? Or can I incorporate them successfully without the face?
In the image above, I was very excited about the overall scene with all the stuff in the boats. I noticed in particular all the circular shapes that were repeating. I made many picture with the woman included while she was looking up/out at people in other boats or on the bank of the canal. See the image below). But what intrigued me with this one was that her hat became yet another circular shape in the scene – and it added to the design that was already strong. She was part of the scene blending within the pattern of circular shapes. It also added an anonymity to the image – she now represented all vendors in the boats. I loved that her hat broke outside the edge of her boat, making the shape stand out from the rest, and helping to fill in the otherwise dull space of water there. Of the two the above image is my favorite. But the image below works, too. Now though, you want to ‘see’ who she is (and in fact her face could stand a little lightening up here in post-processing but since I favored the other picture I made a quick sync of settings to match the two). As is often the case, once the face is introduced, we look at that with more interest perhaps than the overall scene…
In the end, they both work – which do you prefer? Leave your thoughts, comments, when you can and thanks!
I like the first one without the face as I can concentrate on the wonderful diversity of things for sale and the pattern of it all. The second one with the face does change the internal dialogue wondering about that person so it makes for a different kind of photo. Happy Travels.
Hi Dory, good to hear from you. Hope you’ve been having fun – no, I KNOW you’ve been having fun out there, I’m sure of it. 🙂 Thanks for ‘weighing in’
Despite the relatively small change, I see them them as very different images. The first, as Brenda indicated, is very much a graphic image, focusing on the shapes and colors. The second has more human interest, really focuses the eye on the face. I know it is an Asian man, past middle age, and his expression probably mirrors mine when I am at an art fair and the customers aren’t coming, so we have something in common despite the cultural differences.
Thanks for the comments, Rich. And the humor about ‘art fairs’. It’s a hard life, that one…
This is a woman, but an older one that has seen the sun and hard times and short hair and weathered faces make it hard to tell. But women do this type of work, typically, not the men, at least here. Nonetheless, she’s probably feeling the lack of customers on this slow, hot day we were there!
I like the first one, because it reminds us how often we dehumanize workers with mundane unskilled jobs. I prefer to look at the second one because it adds humanity to things people from privilege and power (middle-class and up) ignore or internalize. However the first one captures a sociopathy that shouldn’t exist. Under all the aesthetics, to me, the hat blending in with the circular pattern and strengthening the compositiont suggests workers are commodities to be sold and traded like the contents of the baskets. It’s a reminder we’ve got a long way to go before people just see each other as other amazing people no matter where they’re from or what they do. I wonder which photo the Bhutans would prefer?
Well thought out comments, Kalani, although in this case this way of life is a traditions of many many ‘moons’ ago when it was how peoplet bought/sold produce and brought food from village to village, and this has stayed with many of them even though modern times provide a different way to get food from here to there. These women make delicious meals on their boats that locals come and purchase, sort of like our food-trucks that have recently become favorite spots for lunch. But the second part of your first sentence is true; many people walk by scenes like this everywhere without paying attention to the human beings that are ‘behind’ the hat. That is why I waited to also get the photograph with her looking up/out so you could see her face more. Ironically, the Thai people (this was not in Bhutan) are a shy people (like Bhutanese) and they would probably prefer the first one because it doesn’t show their face. It took a lot of ‘work’ to make portraits of people there because they are shy, but I persevered because I also want to show people as they are and how amazing they are.
Thanks for your comments, as always…
I agree structures get passed down from generation to generation, some good some bad. Like racism etc. It could’ve been in the past that was necessary to keep a country running, there’s historical examples that show this doesn’t have to be the case. You control populations by force into submissive roles or by gaining their hearts and minds through propaganda etc. Either way always dehumanizing when it’s top down. The idea of the happy slave. It’s going to be interesting how they view themselves and how their outlook on the world will evolve as technology, access to information, and economic standards improve over time. And how we view them and ourselves…
Wow, an interesting response Kalani. I don’t see or feel that at all. In no way did I ever feel she was dehumanized… nor do I feel that now. More proof to me that we as viewers of images bring our own paradigm to that act…. in other words, our view is colored by who we are and the life experiences we bring to the act of viewing art…
I’ll go with the faceless version too. Much stronger for me. I find including the face (read person) indeed takes away from the subject which to my eye is the “stuff” in the boat. Her hat without a face becomes more of the “Stuff”. In addition, I don’t need to see her face to know she is a person…. seeing her face does not make her more of a person in this case… I hope that makes sense… 🙂
Yes it does, JB! I agree, if I wanted to make her ‘more of a person’ it would be by making a portrait of her, or at least getting in much closer – and likely falling into the canal! ha ha.
Thanks for commenting.
I love the 2 photos but I also prefer the thirst one. Thanks for sharing.
Graça – thank you for your comments/vote!
I prefer the first image…I find the face distracting and breaking with the design…there is great color and texture here…..she stays with the flow in the first image…great image!
Hi Nancy – Thanks for the comments – isn’t it interesting how something as simple as a face can pull us out of the flow of the design? I agree.
For me personally, I like the first image. The woman’s hat gives the image an added dimension and depth, and I really love all the textures and colors. No face adds a bit of mystery and I like that. Very nice!
Thank you Lin, for weighing in on this one! It’s true there’s a bit of mystery without the face.