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Ari
18-May-2014, 08:43
Hi,

I took these shots of my step-mother yesterday; my wife and I had a discussion on whether or not these photos told a story, enough of a story, or nothing at all.

Without any other information, what do you think?

Thanks in advance.

http://i1367.photobucket.com/albums/r790/Ari4000/For%20Sale/Untitled-2_zps85c545c9.jpg (http://s1367.photobucket.com/user/Ari4000/media/For%20Sale/Untitled-2_zps85c545c9.jpg.html)

djdister
18-May-2014, 09:23
Hi,

I took these shots of my step-mother yesterday; my wife and I had a discussion on whether or not these photos told a story, enough of a story, or nothing at all.

Without any other information, what do you think?

Thanks in advance.


I think the photos suggest a lot, but one is not sure which direction they go...

Scott --
18-May-2014, 10:33
I think the two images together tell a very impactful story. To me. Whether I'm interpreting your intent correctly, I can't say. Individually, they're good photos. Together, they are powerful.

Rank Amature
18-May-2014, 11:16
Ari,
To me they tell a very full story, although the story for me, and perhaps for anyone who does not know your subject personally, is largely based on my experiences rather than hers for the most part. The story I conjure may have nothing to do with what you are trying to convey or the real truth behind what I see. When I see people with no hair, or people with no hair that I assume would normally have hair, I immediately think of losing both my daughter and sister to cancer this past year and what they looked like and what those experiences meant. Your portraits create a very deep storyline in my mind's eye, and one I sincerely hope is not true for your step-mother. What I see in your stepmother's eyes is the same courage and dignity I saw in my daughter's and sister's eyes. You images trigger years of memories for me, and I cant help but project that storyline onto the subject of your images. So I guess we all bring our own interpretations to any work we see, but bringing our stories back into memory in the first place requires powerful enough images to cause this to happen. These two photos do that. They are beautiful and dignified portraits that are bound to have a significant impact on any who see them. Thank you for sharing them.
Markham Starr

Ari
18-May-2014, 11:22
I think the photos suggest a lot, but one is not sure which direction they go...


I think the two images together tell a very impactful story. To me. Whether I'm interpreting your intent correctly, I can't say. Individually, they're good photos. Together, they are powerful.

Thank you both for your input; I appreciate it.

Frank_E
18-May-2014, 11:24
I would say the images tell a story.
Agree that the two images together make it more powerful.
So far no one has tried to articulate their version of what they believe the story to be, so I will go out on a limb and try.
the images definitely communicate emotion, well done

-she is not happy
-looks somewhat forlorn and alone
-very pensive, worried about the future (scared of the future?)
-most people who have lost their hair like this are in the midst of dealing with the side effects of chemo therapy to help treat cancer.
If that is the case it is consistent with her demeanour as communicated by the images.
-the vignetting and dark tones help communicate the idea of worry and foreboding
-the reflections in the water somewhat communicate that she is lost in another world

edit: "so far no one has tried to articulate their version of the story…at the time of my posting anyways…."

Mark Sawyer
18-May-2014, 11:28
I agree with what's been said so far. Loss of hair is very noticeable, and is very associated with health disorders, primarily cancer chemotherapy. That recalls stories, emotions, and relationships for those who have had someone close go through this, (and that's a lot of people these days). Without knowing the specifics of the stories you and your step-mother have to tell, people bring their own. That becomes part of the strength of the images.

Ari
18-May-2014, 11:38
Ari,
To me they tell a very full story, although the story for me, and perhaps for anyone who does not know your subject personally, is largely based on my experiences rather than hers for the most part. The story I conjure may have nothing to do with what you are trying to convey or the real truth behind what I see. When I see people with no hair, or people with no hair that I assume would normally have hair, I immediately think of losing both my daughter and sister to cancer this past year and what they looked like and what those experiences meant. Your portraits create a very deep storyline in my mind's eye, and one I sincerely hope is not true for your step-mother. What I see in your stepmother's eyes is the same courage and dignity I saw in my daughter's and sister's eyes. You images trigger years of memories for me, and I cant help but project that storyline onto the subject of your images. So I guess we all bring our own interpretations to any work we see, but bringing our stories back into memory in the first place requires powerful enough images to cause this to happen. These two photos do that. They are beautiful and dignified portraits that are bound to have a significant impact on any who see them. Thank you for sharing them.
Markham Starr

Markham,
I was very moved by what you wrote; as a father myself, I cannot imagine what you went through. That you are still here to talk about it is remarkable in itself.
I'm very sorry for both your losses.

As is probably evident, my step-mother has cancer; the good news is she is responding well to treatment, she is getting healthy again, and her prognosis is very good.
I suggested taking these photos not for now, but for a time in the future, when she would be 100% healthy; I would hope that seeing herself in these photos would be a reminder of her inner fortitude and to appreciate what she has.

My wife and I talked a little about the two photos, and she thought that while they were strong, they did not really reflect my step-mother's personality to any great degree.
I countered with a well-worn quote, one from Richard Avedon: "Every photo is accurate; none is the truth."
We went back and forth on that for a while.
Then we got into whether the casual observer would see the story in just these two photos; I was fairly certain it would be obvious; my wife was not in disagreement, but she was curious nonetheless.

Thank you for all your comments.

Ari
18-May-2014, 11:40
Without knowing the specifics of the stories you and your step-mother have to tell, people bring their own. That becomes part of the strength of the images.

I couldn't agree more with this; thanks, Mark.

Peter Lewin
18-May-2014, 12:22
Ari: Like the other posters, I do think your portraits, especially as a pair, are very strong. Not only did I respond to your mother-in-law as a probable cancer patient (i.e. the loss of hair, before you posted additional information), but in the first portrait I "read" the foreground puddle as echoing tears or sadness.

Your question about "telling a story" raises the question of how many photographs are really needed to portray a full story. What came to mind immediately was a book the documentary photographer Eugene Richards co-authored with Dorothy Lynch ("Exploding Into Life") in which he photographed Dorothy's fight with cancer. I think that in the sense of "story telling" you would have to approach the subject in a similarly documentary way, which implies many more photographs than we large-format types tend to produce. In that sense I think you have very effectively photographed a point a point in your mother-in-law's life, but perhaps not told a complete story. To give a specific example, from the two portraits we cannot tell whether treatment has been effective or not; a series of portraits as your mother-in-law recovers and her hair grows back, would "complete the story." (Since I tend to respond to posts on this forum in photographic terms, this time Nicholas Nixon comes to mind, as a large format photographer who has tracked his sister's lives over an extended period of time.)

civich
18-May-2014, 17:43
Expressive eyes which have seen something of life. Her beauty is made more evident by the absence of hair. Great character and great beauty. Great portrait.

Ari
18-May-2014, 18:30
...
-the vignetting and dark tones help communicate the idea of worry and foreboding
-the reflections in the water somewhat communicate that she is lost in another world

Thank you, Frank; I tried to steer away from making this too sombre, as she is in good health and generally good spirits; I wanted more of a record of herself, now, to contrast with what will eventually be a more positive outlook.
I may have added dark tones and the reflection to anyone in the sitter's chair that day, but I suppose her mood and situation made her more of a study in worry, and "lost in another world".

Ari
18-May-2014, 18:35
Ari: Like the other posters, I do think your portraits, especially as a pair, are very strong. Not only did I respond to your mother-in-law as a probable cancer patient (i.e. the loss of hair, before you posted additional information), but in the first portrait I "read" the foreground puddle as echoing tears or sadness.

Your question about "telling a story" raises the question of how many photographs are really needed to portray a full story. What came to mind immediately was a book the documentary photographer Eugene Richards co-authored with Dorothy Lynch ("Exploding Into Life") in which he photographed Dorothy's fight with cancer. I think that in the sense of "story telling" you would have to approach the subject in a similarly documentary way, which implies many more photographs than we large-format types tend to produce. In that sense I think you have very effectively photographed a point a point in your mother-in-law's life, but perhaps not told a complete story. To give a specific example, from the two portraits we cannot tell whether treatment has been effective or not; a series of portraits as your mother-in-law recovers and her hair grows back, would "complete the story." (Since I tend to respond to posts on this forum in photographic terms, this time Nicholas Nixon comes to mind, as a large format photographer who has tracked his sister's lives over an extended period of time.)

Thank you, Peter.
And yes, telling a story through photographs, one, a few, or many, is something I personally find difficult to do.
In this situation, we had one chance to get a few photographs done, so it in effect becomes a document of her on that day, or at that time of her life.
She lives abroad, and I see her only once, maybe twice a year, if that; I hope that by next year, we'll have much different photos to make, thus "completing the story".
And my Nicholas Nixon-type story is my wife and daughter. :)

Ari
18-May-2014, 18:36
Expressive eyes which have seen something of life. Her beauty is made more evident by the absence of hair. Great character and great beauty. Great portrait.

Thank you, Chris; very much appreciated.
Indeed, it has been a difficult year for her, and her eyes are the signposts to what she's going through.

Light Guru
18-May-2014, 19:44
Your question about "telling a story" raises the question of how many photographs are really needed to portray a full story.

That's a vary good question to raise. The headshot photo by it self tells a story of someone going through cancer. The story I get from the other one is of someone who is alone. Showing then together the story I get is of someone going through cancer alone.


I tried to steer away from making this too sombre, as she is in good health and generally good spirits


I took these shots of my step-mother yesterday; my wife and I had a discussion on whether or not these photos told a story, enough of a story, or nothing at all.

This information that she is not alone (she has at least your wife and you) and that she is in good health and good spirits seems to conflict with the the story that the photos tell on their own without any other information.

Frank_E
18-May-2014, 20:07
Thank you, Frank; I tried to steer away from making this too sombre, as she is in good health and generally good spirits; I wanted more of a record of herself, now, to contrast with what will eventually be a more positive outlook.
I may have added dark tones and the reflection to anyone in the sitter's chair that day, but I suppose her mood and situation made her more of a study in worry, and "lost in another world".

it is not an easy topic to deal with, and it is certainly difficult to portray photographically in a way which you would want to
because your own feelings will get in the way
and it is sometimes very difficult to assess what your own feelings really are in these situations
and how you might portray something different from what you actually feel

I have never tried to do a photographic study of a topic like this
but I can speak to the issue of cancer and the conflicting feelings you might have around that whole issue
I lost my mother to cancer….

johnmsanderson
19-May-2014, 09:43
Individually very strong images, together they work beautifully. Yes I did originally think she was possibly fighting cancer.

Ari
19-May-2014, 13:00
This information that she is not alone (she has at least your wife and you) and that she is in good health and good spirits seems to conflict with the the story that the photos tell on their own without any other information.

Thanks for your comments, Zak.
She does not live with us, she lives overseas, we don't see her that much; and despite the good prognosis and her inner strength, she does have her bad days, where the worries take over.
Inwardly, that's what I sense about her; outwardly, she is usually in good spirits and positive.

Ari
19-May-2014, 13:01
Individually very strong images, together they work beautifully. Yes I did originally think she was possibly fighting cancer.

Thank you, John; much appreciated.

Ari
19-May-2014, 13:03
it is not an easy topic to deal with, and it is certainly difficult to portray photographically in a way which you would want to
because your own feelings will get in the way
and it is sometimes very difficult to assess what your own feelings really are in these situations
and how you might portray something different from what you actually feel

I have never tried to do a photographic study of a topic like this
but I can speak to the issue of cancer and the conflicting feelings you might have around that whole issue
I lost my mother to cancer….

Thanks again, Frank; your last sentence is, unfortunately, an all-too-common refrain.

Heroique
19-May-2014, 13:11
It's a great portrait.

The reflective sitting posture, her reflection in the water – together they tell about life vs. death, how they go together. A striking Memento Mori.

It's well done, not even a caption or explanation is necessary – but it's great to hear her health is improving.

Ari
19-May-2014, 13:18
Thank you very much, H.

sun of sand
27-May-2014, 12:12
Maybe I'm the only one but I have to say no

the 2nd is a stronger image than the first

she's a beautiful woman with loss of hair
sure, we can read between the lines inserting our own histories for hers and all

but in the end the 2nd photo is just a woman with nice eyes, a seemingly kind spirit
a strong person perhaps
and she is bald

I don't find her sad, really. not really. she looks good bald. she appears accepting and ready for whatever she has to do or is doing
or whatever


the 1st I think shows too much surroundings. when I first saw it I wanted to crop to just above her ankles.
strange, but that's what I felt. Maybe because that's where the strength is in that picture


good pictures
a good portrait. lovely.
I don't see much more than that.

Ari
27-May-2014, 12:51
Thank you, SoS; I feel about the same as you do, except the cropping part.
Now that I see it again, I'm inclined to agree that the 2nd photo is stronger, and the first adds some "colour" or background to the second photo.
Thanks again.

sun of sand
27-May-2014, 13:14
am I the only one who views the 1st image
alone
as more a study of mental illness than of cancer

the reflection of her puts her in another place
seeing her outside the pool gazing to nowhere just makes it seem her mind is perhaps elsewhere
and while is certainly has reason to be when dealing with a sickness
it's more a picture of mental illness
instability

Peter Lewin
27-May-2014, 14:04
am I the only one who views the 1st image
alone
as more a study of mental illness than of cancer

the reflection of her puts her in another place
seeing her outside the pool gazing to nowhere just makes it seem her mind is perhaps elsewhere
and while is certainly has reason to be when dealing with a sickness
it's more a picture of mental illness
instability
I think you might be the only one. I know that I instantly read the baldness as a sign of cancer, and my response to the portraits proceeds from that assumption. Unfortunately many of us have family members or close friends who have had to deal with cancer, and we know that baldness is a direct effect of chemotherapy.

Ari
27-May-2014, 14:13
I wouldn't discount that possibility; it is vaguely reminiscent of some commercial photography (print or video ads) I've seen on the subject of mental illness.