Memories of India by Annu Palakunnathu Matthew
One of the continual dances that I see in photography is the interplay between the big picture and the small details. The title of this portfolio, Memories of India, tells us the big picture. In the photograph above, however, it is the small details that attract our attention — and make this a successful photograph. The luminescent glow of her toenails, the jewelry, the graphic print on her garment, and of course the powerful gesture of her foot descending into the water — it is all these details that keep our eye moving through the photograph and our mind engaged in trying to understand the moment. From the content of the photograph itself, we know nothing about memories nor even that this would be India. The dance begins. The big picture informs the details, and the details inform the big picture.
I'll go one step further and propose that the way of thinking I'm describing as a dance can be a pretty good editing tool for any project. I've used this on ever so many occasions when trying to decide if a photograph adds enough to the project to be included or if it should be excised in the editing process. The title of the project and the introductory text are often the two components that set the stage; the individual images and details therein are what bring life to the play. Each photograph in the project needs to add to the total. It's even better if it adds uniquely to the total.
And then, there is the contribution made by the title of the photograph. The title of this photograph is Mothers' Feet. This bit of detailed information in the form of the image title adds so much meaning when understood in the context of the project title. We can almost feel our minds flipping back and forth between detail and context, context and detail. That is the dance.
With your indulgence, I'll go even one step further and propose that this is precisely how so many photographic projects fail. Either the context (think title and introduction) is too broad or too narrow to successfully allow the individual photographs to provide the detail that completes the project. Or, the context is ideally set, but the photographs are too vague, too unrelated, to uninformative to complete the project. Dancing is a delicate balance that requires more than just knowledge of the steps; it's grace and movement, gesture and timing, an artful interplay between partners that is fragile and easily broken should either misstep. This analogy applies perfectly to photographic projects as well.
The portfolio can be seen in its entirety in our back issues — print (while still available) and our PDFs for computer, iPad, Android, and other devices. Plus, bonus audio commentary about this image is available to members of LensWork Online.
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