Search “Photography” on Google and you’ll get a lot of serious results: How to do this, how you should frame a shot, the best way to create a composition, why you should shoot manual, ad nauseum. If that were your envelope and your only perspective, you’d feel that photography was very serious business. You might find yourself wondering why anyone wants to get into all this seriousness. But occasionally, someone comes along and summarizes the entire medium in one seriously fun photograph. That photographer is Kenny Shepard, his photo is part of a daily photo project and is therefore only numbered: No. 28 of 365. It’s fun to view. But it was fun to create as well. I know, because I was there.
And I knew the moment I realized what he was doing that I wanted to write about it.
Before I get into the behind-the-scenes aspect, let’s talk about the photo. Clearly, it’s an abstract. You may not even fully realize what you’re looking at even after I were to tell you (just wait a few more minutes and I’ll reveal all). There’s a lot of motion in this photograph as objects are zipping towards or possibly away from the camera. Everything is stretched deep into reality and you get this black-and-white watercolor of a foreign landscape. Then anchoring you to the space are the very sharp, very clear lines cutting diagonally through the frame at varying angles. The most noticeable are the black lines at the 11 and 1 (clock) positions. But there are additional lines at the bottom at very shallow angles. These are leading lines that pull us in and they make us question what we’re actually looking at: An escalator.
The photograph is really just a slow-shutter shot of an escalator. Strip away the time aspect of this shot – suppose it were captured at 1/2000 – and it’s really just a classic vanishing point shot. The lines near the bottom of the frame could as easily be railroad tracks, and the steeper lines are actually the railing line, all of which are constants as you move along an escalator. Off in the distance, you would see myself and a few others from our Drink and Click group. Without that long shutter, this would still be a well composed image, but possibly not as interesting.
Kenny created this photograph by setting his camera on the tread of one of the escalator steps. Actually, he did the shot twice: First on the down escalator (which is where I captured this BTS shot), but again on the up-escalator (the results of which are shown above). I don’t know where he came up with the shot. Perhaps he saw it before, or perhaps he just thought of it without any prior influences. But the concept was so simple that as soon as he set up for the shot the first time, we all figured it out pretty quickly. Then we all seemed to be dropping comments that we wished we had thought of it first. We all watched in admiration as Kenny carried out his shots and experiments. But the thought came across my head that this really was a lot of fun. It was fun to watch. It was likely fun for Kenny to create the shot. We talked about it for several minutes following and raised it again later in the day. The finished image was also fun.
Photography can be frustrating at times. If a shot isn’t coming out the way you had envisioned it, you will have moments of bitter frustration and anger. Sometimes we can get carried away with the technical details and the match and know-how that is necessary to set up a shot. Maybe we’re reaching beyond our skill level or perhaps we’re simply doing too much technical stuff at the same time. Or maybe we get caught up in the business side of things, marketing, contracts, accounts payable and receivable. Every once in a while, we can forget how fun this medium can truly be. We have to snap out of it sometimes and just have fun. Shoot for fun, capture what you like in the way you want it. There won’t always be a photographer like Kenny or a photograph like No. 258 here to remind us of this fun.
Kenny Shepard is a photographer that hails from Philadelphia. He specializes in street photography and most of his photos are in black & white. The best way to follow Kenny and his work is via Google+ where you will find all of his most current work, including his daily project.