11 august 2011

Explaining goodness

USUALLY, IT IS SO MUCH EASIER to describe why something is bad than why something is good.
This photographic portrait from today’s Berlingske Tidende inspired me to make an attempt pointing out the particular qualities which make this a great photograph.

AT FIRST GLANCE, the photo simply follows fashion with its black-and-white aesthetics and it also contains quite a few of the features which we often see used as clichés in contemporary press photography, and which I have been criticizing in earlier blogposts (in Danish; my apologies to eventual readers from countries outside Scandinavia).
Focusing on a mirror image is something we see all the time, just like the large out-of-focus area and the quite small part of the photograph which actually shows the motif: A man who is suffering from impotence after a prostate cancer surgery.

BUT THIS PHOTO is not a cliché. Far from it. And why is that?
Because the abovementioned features all serve their purposes. The very topic of the reportage is how men in this kind of situation are seeing themselves, hence the mirror. The man’s nakedness suggests sexuality, another key issue of the story, without any pornographic hints whatsoever; his dignity remains unharmed.
His eyes are extremely expressive, maybe the highlight of this photograph. But the view of the man from behind adds something more to our impression of him, it is not just the symptom of superficial artsiness which you might suspect. Seeing a human body from that angle will inspire the viewer to associate to age, health, weakness; other things that are all very relevant to this story.

TO DRAW A CONCLUSION, this is a very successful photograph. In its own right and, even more, because it adds so much to the story. Words and visuals are going hand in hand.
It would be interesting to learn how the photographer, Christian Als, had been briefed for this assignment and how he was working together with the reporter, Cecilie Gormsen.

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