Chairs and tables

Bradley Uncategorised

Photograph of chairs and tables at a cafe by Bradley Cummings.

I like this image a lot even though it’s technically flawed.

It was taken with a small pocket camera — a somewhat old and battered Canon G9 (at least, old by digital camera standards) — and so the image is ‘noisy’, the tones don’t separate as well as they should, and … well, you get the idea.

But despite all that technical stuff, I still really like the image enough to forgive it those problems and to see past them.

In fact, the way that I have processed this image actually exaggerates those technical problems and I have made no attempt at all to hide them or to lessen them. My treatment of the image actually helps to foreground them.

Sometimes, as photographers, we spend so much time trying to reach ever-higher levels of imaging perfection with our quest for better cameras and lenses and everything else, that we forget what we’re trying to achieve — pictures that engage, that connect, that have something to say or to show or to communicate.

And that’s why I like this picture. It engages me.

Part of what this image reveals is its very ‘photographic-ness’. Consider, for example, the perspective offered by my choice to use a telephoto lens. That choice has the effect of collapsing the sense of distance in the picture so that the background seems to pull in closer to the foreground. This is a quintessentially photographic perspective. Consider also the use of depth-of-field so that the chairs in the foreground are a bit blurry and so are those in the background — only the middle region of the picture is sharp and so that’s where the viewers’ eyes are led. This is a quintessentially photographic technique used to ‘show’ the viewer where to look in the photograph. Furthermore, the graininess of the image and the technical shortcomings that you can see if you look hard enough are also quintessentially photographic.

I love images that look photographic, as this one does to me.

The composition is very carefully constructed so that none of tops of the curved chair backs overlap — they are all graphically separated yet they all still connect and relate to each other. The chair that is in sharp focus is the one that links the foreground and background and unifies the whole image. You can see what I mean if you imagine the image without that chair.

Finally these chairs and tables are arranged and ordered yet the whole scene is laden with the expectation that they will be occupied — that they are intended to be occupied. There is a tension in this image between what the space is intended for (people), and what’s missing from the scene (people). The story in this image lies in that tension I think.

So, yes. I like this image. A lot.