When one thinks of silhouette photos, sunsets and summer days and beaches come to mind. Cold climates, snow covered escalators and tunnels are not at the forefront of our minds. It may, however, have been be at the forefront of Emily Ferry’s mind when she created this beautiful photograph, Dupont North Metro Escalator. I have a great appreciation for this shot because it’s a situation that many – if not all – of us have been in before: Waiting to reach the top of an escalator packed with people. Why don’t we walk up an escalator? Is that what it’s there for? Such a shot captures and reiterates so many emotions: Frustration, impatience, angst, anticipation. The list can go on.
Compositionally, it’s a simple shot. A single vanishing point, concentric rings, a dark frame around a bright vanishing point. There is only enough light to give us some hints at where we are. We often talk about finding a unique perspective here at Shutter Photo, but rarely do we credit the beautiful compositions that can be made with a very common perspective. Who hasn’t looked up towards our destination while standing on an escalator? But when such a perspective is captured in silhouette form, the beauty of such a perspective starts to surface. The texture of the snow on slope of the escalator ledge becomes apparent. The tar sealant on the cracks in the ceiling are no longer eyesores as they point us towards the end of our journey. And the humans in front of of Emily shift into inhuman shapes, nearly ghost-like in appearance. The exposure for this shot is not an easy one. If Emily exposed for the light exclusively, the tunnel would be dark, and the people would barely be discernible. If exposed for the people, the light would be overpowering. As humans, our eyes are capable of seeing a much wider range of light than our cameras. It’s a delicate balance, a slight shift either direction would change the impact of the shot. Emily nailed the exposure perfectly to create a balance between the dark contents of the tunnel and the bright light. There’s another advantage to such an exposure: Items outside the tunnel will be so overexposed that they will not be at all visible. This is an advantage because we don’t want such clutter in our photos, especially at the focal point.
Emily has done a lovely job creating a simple but powerful photograph. This is an example of how every-day situations can be turned into beautiful photographs. It is also an example of something more important: Catering towards your audience. A photo will have a greater impact on your audience if they can identify with it. We often look for the unique perspective, but sometimes the common perspective is equally as powerful. As I browse Emily’s photo stream and blog, it occurs to me that her talent is demonstrating the beauty in common situations and perspectives. Emily’s work is the result of a photojournalist’s eye and a fine artist’s mind.