19 Jan 2008

Photographing people - eye contact

These two photographs are part series I took while working on assignment in India. They show the patients of a mental hospital. These people where lucky – they were very well cared for by a dedicated group of nuns and nurses.

Much of the power of the photographs comes from the fact that they depict vulnerable people in a sparse and austere setting. However a major contributor to their impact is the direct eye contact with the principal subjects.

Never underestimate the power of a portrait photograph when the subject is looking directly into the lens. The viewer makes immediate contact with the sitter and feels a shared communication. You may have noticed this in many of my photographs of people. It is not done by chance, but is a technique I like to use often whenever I feel it will add power to the photograph.

In the photograph of the boy and the nurse, the viewer should be able to share the youngster’s joy at seeing a stranger (me) taking his photograph. However, it is essential that the nurse should be looking down at the boy and not at me. This conveys her concern and care for her patient. Had she AND the boy been looking at the camera, the photograph would be little more than a record of their faces.

The top photograph works because, again, the subject is looking straight at the camera – there is eye contact. This time, his inability to get up to look properly is emphasised by that the glance of the eye.

Perhaps I’ll publish some more photographs from this set tomorrow. I feel a yen to show you some of my pictures. Can you cope with that I wonder?


GlenF said...

Eyes - that's the point to set your focus, for short or deeper depth of field.

Cathy said...

Yes please, Philip - I love seeing your photos. Cathy.