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.