Simplicity is something that we all strive for in our photography. It’s not that we’re looking to be simple, nor are we looking to make our jobs simpler. In actuality, simplicity is a very difficult goal to achieve as the path is marked by a lot of trials and tribulations. No, we all long to communicate with our viewer simply. We strive to create simple compositions that translate to any language and transcends cultural barriers. A photographer like Chris Hancock makes it all look so easy – which is how you know he’s good at what he does. His photo, Late Morning Windows, communicates with its viewer simply and across such cultural barriers. It is simplicity at its best.
If you were to read Chris’s bio on Flickr, he mentions an interesting fact: He’s had “no formal training, so there is a lot of happenstance in [his]photos”. He goes on to suggest that he has a “journey philosophy”. I don’t really know the finer points of his philosophy, but I would say it’s working for him. This much I do know from his works: He shoots what strikes him as interesting without over-analyzing. Analysis is my job. I’m the one that is going to pull apart someone’s pictures for the benefit of the world. As the creator, analysis shouldn’t be a concern of yours unless you’re trying to determine how to improve a specific aspect of your skill set. So there is much to be learned from Chris’s philosophy, and I believe it aligns well with Shutter Photo’s own philosophies. In short, you can’t over-think the creation of a photograph or be bogged down with the application of the so-called rules. Trust your initial thoughts and reactions and let your more artistically inclined right-brain take over.
Back to the photo.
Late Morning Windows is a simple composition comparing the form, size and structure of two windows planted closely together on a building wall. The brick building and the windows themselves are painted white, eliminating all color (ahem: distractions) from the photograph. Obviously, Chris did not choose to have white windows on a white wall (unless this is a building he in fact owns, but for the sake of discussion, let’s assume he has no control over the structure). But Chris chose to see the shot of the differing windows on a texture rich but otherwise blank canvas of the white brick wall. He framed the shot nicely, giving about the same amount of room on the outside edges of the windows. It’s a tight composition, but one that helps to stress the differences and similarities between these two windows. The windows therefore appear equal, despite their obvious differences. The late morning sun is fairly high in the sky, and so the angle of the light casts across the window sills and the bricks. You’re always told that the Golden Hour is when the best light happens? There are exceptions, and this is one of them. The sun’s position high in the sky is what emphasizes the texture of the brick and casts those shadows from the window sill. The cross-light helps to give the features depth, even as slight as they are. But therein lies my point: If Chris were planning out a shot and he perhaps thought too highly of the rules and suggestions floating about cyberspace, he may have tried this shot just before sunset, and the result would be very different. Dare I say it wouldn’t be as compelling.
Chris’s “Journey” philosophy gets a point. The rules? Zero. Simple approach equals simple results.
You can explore more of Chris Hancock’s photographic journey through his Photostream at Flickr. He is an experimental photographer exploring many angles and photographic techniques. He’s also a details guy and he seems to pull the best out of simple compositions with the small things that many often take for granted. So be sure to check him and his work out.