Our world is boundless, multifaceted, and we are constantly surrounded by space with different meanings. But, for reasons unknown to us, so many photographers create work without considering what surrounds the model. The photographer’s normal thought process is, “I’ll put the model in front of this building/archway/bed/park/whatever, because such a solution looks pretty/compositionally advantageous.” It so happened that everything around us carries information, and in photography it’s a sin not to use this to enrich the content and build the context of the frame.
The only thing that does not carry information in the image is emptiness. Usually emptiness is expressed through blockages in black and overexposure. Indeed, in the first case, the viewer does not see what is in the frame, and in the second he sees that there is nothing. How to streamline the rest of the informational chaos of the image? Pretty simple.
To control the conditions in which the character is located, the photographer must consider the following factors:
Depending on the material surrounding the person portrayed, we can reveal in more detail the state in which he is. Here it is necessary to choose a definition, which is subsequently transferred in the mind of the viewer to our hero of the frame. For example: a space of concrete and glass creates a cold, hard atmosphere; wooden — warm; space with a bunch of pillows or featherbeds — soft, tender; etc. Taking into account the texture of space, we can either build a harmonious state of the character (hard in hard, gentle in tender, etc.) or create a contrast: a cute little girl dressed in a light cotton dress with a soft toy in her hands and a compassionate emotion, placed in a cold / wild / hard space, will create a contrast between the image and the environment, thereby highlighting the state of the character more clearly.
- Time of creation.
All people have a sense of “habit”. Those things to which we are accustomed, we experience a calmer attitude than to things that are new to us. Everything new must first be studied by a person in order to be able to “feel” later. That is why we perceive wooden houses more warmly than new buildings, although we understand that modern technologies in construction allow us to achieve a warmer and more reliable space than buildings made of wood using the technologies of the past.
By capturing the portrait dressed in a business suit against the backdrop of buildings from the Soviet period, we create the image of an ordinary office worker who is going to work to feed his family. But if we show the same person in the same clothes against the backdrop of skyscrapers, then we create a tougher character who earns big money and does serious business.
Of course, there can be many interpretations here depending on the information details entered into the frame, but the main thing to remember is that the photographer must take into account the time of creation of the space (epoch) and everything connected with it in the mind of the viewer.
- Sphere of use.
Often, photographers choose a shooting space based on the factor of accessibility, geometry, possible lighting, color, or simply aesthetics, completely forgetting that it is possible to connect the created image with its surroundings in meaning. Many spaces of our reality carry a certain functionality: in some people live, in others they eat, in others they read, watch movies, and much more. For a deeper and more reliable construction of the image in the frame, it is recommended to select a space corresponding, let’s say, to the character’s possible habitat.
Harmony is achieved simply: it is only necessary to logically correlate the character with where he should be. It must, but it cannot. We can come to a glam party in a tailcoat, which, of course, will look strange, but in order to achieve harmony in the visual image, it would be better for us to be at the soiree of a secular society.
The contrast is confirmed by the ratio of the action of the character and the space where he is. If a photographer captures a person making a fire and dressed in baggy clothes, hiding his face, in some dark alley, then an image of a socially disadvantaged hero who only wants to keep warm is created. But if the same character starts a fire against the backdrop of the city administration, then an image of an “anarchist” going against the system is created.
All the above examples are aimed at making you, dear reader, understand that if you change even one detail in the frame, the whole story can change for the viewer. And, if the photographer does not spend enough effort and knowledge on thinking through and creating a character, then the story captured in the frame may not be read at all. Which, alas, is what happens to most of the visual content on the Internet.
The question arises: what should be paramount — space or character? Over time, each photographer will be able to answer this question for himself, because someone is more interested in realizing the personality of the person being portrayed due to the type, facial expressions, clothes and his actions captured, while others are more interested in revealing the character due to the realities surrounding him. But ideally, it is better not to separate these concepts, since the viewer perceives them inseparably and, practically, simultaneously.