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Stephanie Cohen “Their Scars have a Story” Photo Essay

Writing, Research, Technology Dr. Wolff Fall 2012

Introduction I chose to photograph people who have gone through a hard time in their lives that have left them with a scar that will forever be with them. Through each of the faces of these photographs you can see the pain that follows them. You may never guess it but some of the injuries are self-inflicted. Self-mutilation has become a common practice amongst teens and young adults. The scars that these people have gone through vary from sports injuries to cigarette burns. The pain that each of these individuals have experienced is often hid behind smiles and laughter. Due to the obscene and graphic images that I have come across, I have chosen to view their stories through a different angle.

I can personally relate to this issue through my twenty-one years of life. My past has left me with an obnoxious scar on my left arm as a result from being bit from a 130-pound dog. This scar unfortunately will be present on my wedding day. My body is full of flaws that each have their own story to tell, just like each picture in this photo-essay. As you are only provided with one opportunity to live once, one must take this chance to not dwell on such hardships in their past but let them serve as a lesson learned. Writer and philosopher David Thoreau once said, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” While you are examining this photo-essay keep in mind that, there is more than what meets the eye behind every single one of these portraits.


Photo-­‐essay  Analysis     To  capture  these  images  I  used  a  Sony  Cyber-­‐shot  12.1  mega   pixel  digital  camera.  This  digital  camera  allowed  me  to  easily   take  as  many  pictures  as  I  needed  too  of  each  person.  I  was   able  to  take  over  20  pictures  of  each  person  in  different   settings.  Some  of  the  pictures  were  taken  outdoors  while   most  were  taken  against  a  plain  background  indoors  to  keep   my  audience  focused  on  the  close  up  of  each  face  and  the   emotions  they  portray.       I  didn’t  give  myself  much  direction  when  taken  this  pictures,   other  than  that  I  knew  that  I  wanted  to  focus  on  their  face   and  try  to  get  the  best  straightforward  picture  that  would   help  describe  their  story.  When  finding  the  participants  to   take  pictures  of,  I  asked  people  if  they  had  a  scar  with  an   interesting  story  to  share  with  me.  After  seeing  their  scar   and  listening  to  what  they  had  to  say,  I  asked  them  to  look   into  the  lens  with  a  serious  face  and  sort  of  tell  their  story  by   their  facial  expressions.  During  this  process  I  discovered  the   difficulty  of  taking  portraits.  I  received  some  tips  from  the   How  to  take  portraits-­‐19  Portrait  photography  tutorials.     Some  of  the  quick  tips  that  I  found  helpful  included;  keep  it   simple,  set  up  the  shot  before  introducing  your  subject  to  it   and  shoot  into  the  light.  I  knew  that  having  a  plain   background  to  shoot  the  portraits  would  make  the  pictures   appear  stronger.  After  I  took  a  decent  amount  of  pictures   that  I  thought  I  had  enough  to  work  with  I  uploaded  them   through  iPhoto  and  began  editing  many  different  pictures.   For  most  of  these  pictures  I  lowered  the  saturation  level,   used  the  color  fade  effect,  applied  more  shadowing,   darkened  the  eye  area,  increased  the  contrast  levels,  and   lowered  the  exposure  of  each  image.  

When  taking  these  photographs  I  knew  that  eye  contact  and   a  straightforward  photograph  would  best  help  each   individuals  stories  be  told.  According  to  the  article   Photography  Composition-­‐  your  photo  as  a  story,  “What  is  a   photograph?  It  is  a  story.  What  is  a  story?  It  is  a  series  of   sentences  connected  to  each  other.  The  same  is  true  about   photography.  To  create  a  photograph,  it  is  not  enough  just  to   take  an  image  of  something”.  When  taking  these  portraits,  I   kept  in  mind  their  story  and  how  each  photograph  I  chose  in   this  photo-­‐essay  has  a  story  to  tell.     The  rhetorical  and  aesthetic  of  each  image  is  portrayed   through  their  facial  expressions.  Each  picture  keeps  you   thinking  of  what  their  scar  is  and  what  they  have  overcome   in  their  past.  The  meaning  behind  the  pictures  is  too  having   each  of  this  individuals  show  strength  through  their   portraits.  You  can  get  most  of  their  story  from  the  strength  of   the  eyes  of  each  picture.     Each  picture  was  edited  differently  and  no  two  pictures  used   the  same  editing  techniques.  After  photographing  several   participants,  I  uploaded  the  images  to  iPhoto  and  began   blurring  edges,  darkening  shadows,  and  contrasting  the   colors.  I  focused  my  eyes  always  on  their  face  when  editing   and  how  I  could  make  the  image  appear  stronger  to  my   audience.  I  did  not  want  anything  in  the  pictures  that  could   be  a  distraction  to  the  viewer,  such  as  other  people  in  the   background  or  busy  wall  art.   I  decided  to  title  each  of  these  images  in  order  to  provide  the   audience  with  some  direction  to  their  stories.  The  idea   behind  each  title  was  to  not  directly  state  their  scar  or  their   story  behind  their  scars,  but  to  give  a  quick  blur  of  why  I   have  chosen  to  photograph  them.  For  example,  one  title  

states,  1994:  Afraid  of  the  two-­‐wheel  bicycle,  this  title  makes   you  wonder  what  happened  on  that  day  in  1994?  Did  they   fall  off  their  bicycle?  Get  hit  by  someone  riding  a  bicycle?   Where  is  their  scar?     This  photo-­‐essay  helped  me  see  the  art  in  photography  and   helped  me  find  the  key  to  taking  portraits.   Image  Analysis       I  chose  to  analyze  this  specific  picture  because  I  feel  that  it  is   the  strongest  picture  of  this  photo-­‐essay.  There  was  not   much  editing  done  to  this  picture  because  the  original   lighting  helped  bring  out  the  facial  features.     The  facial  expressions  of  this  picture  show  fear,  pain,  and   sadness,  which  by  looking  at  this  picture  you  could   understand  her  story  behind  her  scar.  Her  hair  is  covering   some  of  her  face,  which  provides  shadows  along  the  outer   side  of  her  cheekbones,  and  there  are  huge  “bags”   underneath  both  of  her  eyes,  which  immediately  draws  the   audience  to  look  beneath  them.  The  eye  contact  made  is   located  directly  in  the  center  of  the  image,  which  is  the  main   focus  of  a  portrait.       I  also  feel  that  the  picture  has  a  greater  effect  on  the   audience  because  there  are  no  color  distractions.  The  entire   image  only  possesses  neutral  tones  (black,  nude,  brown,   gray,  light  blue).  If  there  were  brighter  or  other  colors  used   the  picture  would  have  been  too  “busy”  and  distracting.     When  editing  this  picture  I  kept  in  mind  the  rule  of  thirds   and  the  main  focus  of  the  picture,  which  is  her  face,  which   takes  up  the  middle  1/3rds  of  the  entire  photograph.  Her  

face  is  located  in  the  direct  center  of  the  photograph.   According  to  the  rule  of  thirds  you  should  position  the  most   important  elements  in  your  scene  along  these  lines,  or  at  the   points  where  they  intersect.                                   The  title  of  this  image  is  1994:  Roof  Fall,  her  scar  is  on  her  left   hip  and  it’s  from  when  she  was  just  three  years  old  and  fell   outside  her  backyard  toy  house  roof  top.  Because  of  the   placement  of  the  trees  and  her  face,  you  can  tell  the   photograph  was  taken  from  higher  up,  which  relates  to  her   fear  of  heights  and  her  previous  injury.     Also  when  taking  this  picture,  I  kept  in  mind  symmetry  and   patterns.  As  you  may  notice  all  the  background  trees  are   located  across  the  picture  at  the  exact  same  height   throughout.  Another  important  rule  of  composition  that  was   used  through  this  image  was  the  viewpoint.  The  picture  was   taken  from  a  roof  point  view  but  at  my  eye-­‐level,  which   helped  get  the  half  trees  half  cloud  background

Works  Cited       "Posing  Tips  for  Portraits  â  Shoulders."  Digital  Photography  School  RSS.  N.p.,  n.d.  Web.  15  Dec.  2012.     "Rules  of  Photo  Composition."  Rules  of  Photo  Composition.  N.p.,  n.d.  Web.  15  Dec.  2012.  

Each Scar Has a Story