A clear and well defined subject is often our goal when we create a photograph. It’s those times when we wish to tell a story, and a clear subject is how we help the viewer to arrive at the conclusion we’ve already paved. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes we just want to create a photo that is interesting and nice to look at. Still life photos fit the bill, offering lots of interesting things to observe. But it doesn’t always need to be flowers; sometimes a far more chaotic scene is much more appealing. Which leads me to this chaotic and equally beautiful photo, Individually Paned, by Rachael Switalski.
Between the jars and bottles in the windows, the warped reflections of the building across the way and the structured window grilles, I have so much to look at here. I think the winning combination that really makes me admire Rachael’s photo is the meticulous way that she framed it: The entire window fits perfectly into the photo frame. Each grille seems to fence in a whole new scene…it’s like a series of still life photos affixed to the wall in a grid. Some of the pains have a clear subject, like the one at the bottom right or the bottom second from the left. Other panes are a bit more amorphic, like the one second from the bottom and second from the left. In these panes, I am finding myself doing a cloud-watching sort of thing. In that panel, I see the profile of a skeleton with a severe under-bite.
Rachael’s use of black and white is very appropriate. I think the color version of this would be a bit too chaotic; too distracting. But the use of black and white also means that the reflections appear much more vividly, particularly in the reflected brickwork. Actually, that brickwork shows of just how well Rachael handled the black & white here. Take a look at the top-left pane: Absolute whites are exhibited in the grout and absolute black is clearly seen in the window frame (and plenty of clean tones in between). Black and white is not very forgiving, so even with a perfect exposure, she would have had to finesse the curves in post to get the shot this perfect.
The big takeaway here is that you don’t always have to tell a story, nor do you have to be so clean and clear with your subject. A photo can be chaotic. It can feature a great number of textures and tones with even the slightest layer of structure. A photo like Individually Paned may not make a political statement, but the results are much more fun for the viewer.
Rachael Switalski is a photographer out of Philadelphia where she captures many of her inspiring photographs. She shoots and thrives in a number of styles and genres, including street, urban, landscape, travel and a recent smattering of close-up/macro. The best way to follow Rachael and her work is to wander over to her Google+ page.