Revisit Old Stories

November 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

If you're like me, you keep all your original RAW files intact. I have multiple external drives with 5 years worth of digital negatives copied, backed up, and duplicated. I also use Amazon Drive to store RAW files.

This allows you to go back and re-evaluate your photographs, even years later. Sometimes you've learned new tricks and want to see what can be done with an image that was previously beyond saving. Or perhaps Lightroom or Photoshop has added new features (like Photoshop's "shake reduction" filter, which is amazing) that might make a difference.

In this case, I wanted to see if I'd taken shots on either side of one that I'd previously published, just to see if I could tell a different story by adding the before and after.

Example

Here's a shot taken in 2013, on the Canon EOS M that I had at the time. A really nice camera, in fact, though I couldn't live with the lack of a viewfinder. I eventually traded the M and two lenses, and an L lens, for my Fujifilm X100T, and haven't looked back.

But despite terrible reviews, I really liked the EOS M. It's a nice form factor, and the lenses were sharp and clear.

 

Denial (Canon EOS M)

This shot was taken very carefully and quietly whilst sitting on the trolly service that loops around downtown Cleveland.

I think it's quite a powerful shot, considering I had the camera in my lap at the time. I am very nervous about street photography, for a variety of reasons, not least because I'm Irish, and I feel like we avoid getting into people's faces.

This picture tells many stories, except for the right one. I've long felt as if I've presented this image out of context.

Yes, the hand raised in denial is a powerful statement. That he's not looking at the camera whilst his hand is raised changes it from a confrontational denial to something more abstract.

Why is he doing that? It looks like he's aware I'm taking a photograph, but he's not engaging directly with me, just indicating "no" on some level.

But that's not what was happening. 

He had no idea I was taking his photograph. He is resting his hand on his walking cane and was flexing his hand, open and shut, since it was obviously giving him some trouble. He was sitting in the priority seating for those with mobility difficulties and was anticipating his stop coming up, preparing himself physically and mentally for the next stage of his walk, which would be challenging for him, at least compared to the rest of us on the bus. 

I was on the bus because I didn't want to walk back to my office. He was on the bus because he might not have been able to walk to his next destination, not without pain and discomfort, and without perhaps being late for whatever appointment or encounter he was heading to. 

There was no confrontation here. The gesture wasn't one of denial, but one of strength, of preparation. It was one word in a sentence, and one word doesn't always make for a good story.

I recently returned to the original digital negative for this shot, and for the one either side of it (I did take three shots over the course of several seconds). I edited them, aligned them to be a little more consistent, and then constructed this triptych.

What do you think? Is the image more powerful without the context of the other two? Now that the story has additional words on either side of the original shot, is it more or less powerful? 


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