FarewellsIn this post I want to talk about something that confuses many photographers, that of subject and subject matter.

This picture is called “Farewells”. The subject of the picture is farewells, this is indicated by a) the person on the end of the platform, b) the raised waving hand from inside the carriage and c) the Guard looking out of the carriage window as the train departs the station platform. The subject matter was a train pulling out the station, the subject is the parting of loved ones.

Photography is a medium of communication. Therefore a photograph needs to communicate at an emotional level where there is a clear and obvious link between the subject and the subject matter. If this criteria is not fulfilled then the photograph is merely a technical or personal record.

In the next frame I took a split second later two of the emotional motifs were not present i.e. the person on platform and the waving hand, this greatly reduces the emotional content of the subject matter to the viewer. As Elliott Erwitt say “If the viewer didn’t get it, you failed to communicate clearly”.

Freeman Patterson’s book “Photography and the art of seeing” available through Amazon that I have plugged many times on my blog talks about this symbiotic relationship. He particular points out the necessity to understand the relationship between the subject and the subject matter when composing a picture.

If you are a photographer who enters competitions and wonder why some pictures are more successful than others, I would suggest that there is a clear emotional link to the viewer in the choice of subject and subject matter, as well as a high level of technical competence in the more successful ones.

Just a reminder I am running a Lightroom for black-and-white photographers Seminar in May at Calumet Photographic in Bristol, book through the Calumet seminars website. And I’m also doing a seminar called “The simple secret are becoming a first-class photographer” in June which is booked through my website. Follow the links for both from my website below.

A big hello to all the new followers of my little blog this week.

(c) Andy Beel FRPS 2013


7 responses to Farewells

  1. athyfoto says:

    p.s. Did you see that Lightroom 5 has been released as a Public Beta? I have seen some of the improvements and it looks really good. The learning curve moves ever upwards!


    • andybeel says:

      Hi Frank yes I have seen the Julianne Kost video – the taking away objects tool is what Lr really lacks for me. Thanks for the kind appreciation. Andy


  2. rdwood says:

    I’ve long been aware of the need to relate subject and subject matter to create a photograph. Truly a difficult task. Your breakdown of “Farewells,” combined with the excerpt from Patterson’s book – which I will soon be locating a copy of – strengthen an already fantastic photograph.

    The way “Farewells” reads so strongly from right-to-left feels very Eastern-culture inspired.


    • andybeel says:

      Hi RD I hope you find Freeman’s book useful, every photographer should read it at least once a year. Andy


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