When I was young, I remember my father’s observation as to why my mother (who grew up in Philadelphia) didn’t know her own city as well as he (who grew up somewhere else): As a native to the area, my mother was well beyond the need for visual cues. These things had blended into her environment years ago. Later, I learned that my father actively worked at making sure he never stopped noticing the subtle changes in his environment. That’s a trait I have long admired. Zaedah Black is a photographer who I believe has a similar philosophy. In her photo, Losing The Will To Glow, she features a landmark in the Trenton, NJ area: The Lower Trenton Bridge which is best known as the “Trenton Makes Bridge”. Despite its prominence, I bet very few noticed the bridge the way Zaedah did.
I really like the way Zaedah treated the sign in her photograph. The red neon is the most bold color in the photo. While it’s probably the only bold color on this otherwise dreary day, I suspect that she pushed the drama a bit in post. The finished product is stunning, eye catching and powerful. Again, I think the sign has all but blended into everyone else’s environment. It’s a blur in our memories and we imagine the entire sign properly lit, because we just assume that it is. It’s amazing what the mind will believe when you stop looking. So here’s my theory: Zaedah never stopped looking. She knows her world and her eyes were open one day when she happened to notice that the sign wasn’t completely lit. Maybe she took a picture the first time she noticed, or maybe she just made a mental note for when the conditions were just right. Regardless, this doesn’t look exactly like this in real life…or at least not as dramatic. She noticed a small story written in those half-lit words and she followed through in post to drive the story home. There’s no doubt about the comment she has been making.
A slight aside: Zaedah’s photo comes with impeccable timing, seeing as the New Jersey Governor, who works only a few blocks from this bridge, has been under a lot of media scrutiny as of late. But I digress…
In the end, I think Zaedah’s photo is successful in part because of her treatment, her post-processing and all of the technical aspects that lead up to a great photo. But I think it all started with a clear vision based on knowing her world and seeing her world with eyes open. Zaedah Black‘s eyes are often open as you can plainly see in her photostream. She’s a detail oriented photographer that never misses the most important of those details. And if you were to follow her and her work on Flickr, I bet you’d be inspired to go exploring yourself.