So six photographers were asked by Canon to shoot the same person, however each was given a different background of the person. The six photographers shot drastically different photographs based on what they thought they knew of the person. You can see an article on PetaPixel here.
This interesting experiment highlights the impact that a photographer has on the images they take. This is why, when I find a photographer I like, I need to dive deeply into their lives to try and understand their perspective. But in so doing, I am reinterpreting the image through a different lens, and this can cause problems.
Here is my own experiment to highlight the pitfalls of interpreting a photographers perspective.
Here we have two photographs by the same photographer of two different ladies. Both are interesting shots, the first an intimate snapshot of a woman who is caught on a toilet and manages a coy smile. The second, is a graceful posed image of a beautiful woman with a striking off camera gaze. Both were shot by Lartigue.
Anyone can look to these two images and see an eye for photography. Anyone can see the obvious talent and in spite of the very different photographic styles, it is clear that Lartigue executed both wonderfully well.
If one begins to look deeper at Lartigue's life, one finds that the first photo is of Bibi, his first wife. It was shot during their honeymoon. She was his main subject for years, both before and after they were married. As the marriage began to fall apart she asked for a divorce and left him. Lartigue then got together with Renee Perle who was a model. She became his muse and he shot photographs of her all over.
When you compare the images of his first wife, candid, unposed and innocent it is easy to believe one sees happiness and joy. As one continues to look at the images of Renee Perle it is easy to believe that one sees fake poses, an act for the lens that must be covering up something that is missing...perhaps the joy we saw before.
Looking back up at the two images, we see them very differently now. We see the intimate joy of a young bride being photographed by her new husband and on the second a false pose, an image that could have been shot by any fashion photographer.
But these interpretations are adjusted based on our understand of Lartigue and his life. You can read his diary and see his thoughts of each woman, you can marvel at how his style changed and even feel a bit sad that his first marriage failed. But these things are not captured in the image.
In this two dimensional representation of three dimensional ladies, we have wonderful images. We have gesture captured wonderfully, we have grace and we have composition. It is our biased attempt to extrapolate the photographer's intent based on our understanding of what was happening to his life that alters our perception and appreciation of two fine photographs.
A photograph can be a simple snapshot that you glance over for a few seconds and move on. Or you can linger over the photograph and conceptualize it, but then you can go deeper and attempt to understand the photograph. Through each stage your perception of the photograph will be altered tremendously when the image itself has not changed a bit.
As Canon proved in their experiment, a photographer will impact an image based on their perception of the subject. But as shown above, the viewer will impact the interpretation of an image based on their perception of the photographer. So a well thought out image is the product of the photographers bias intermingled with the viewer's own bias.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.