In 1839, Edward Bulwer-Lytton once coined the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword”. In concept of civil communication surpassing violent means to resolve an issue is nothing new. But I’d be curious to know what Bulwer-Lytton would have said if he were more familiar with the camera that was still only in it’s most primitive state at the time. Photography is so much more efficient than words, in many cases. But not all editorial commentary is about wars and politics, sometimes things are a bit more subtle, more like social commentary. And so I’d like to introduce you to ones such subtle comment that was prepared by photographer Ross Abraham. His photograph, Sun, Sea and Cellphones, does a nice job of slipping in a comment about technology in today’s world.
Candid photography is always a fun medium. You can capture people in such interesting circumstances. But sometimes, there’s more to be said by the scene in front of the lens. I believe that Ross captured this photograph not because of the subject matter, nor because of the composition. To me, it’s clear that his intent was to capture a thought, a bit of social commentary. I don’t for a second believe that this was an accident. His intent even worked its way into the photo’s title: “…Cellphones”. Ross is not alone in his observations, others have noticed mobile technology’s expanded roll in our daily lives and have also captured it with their camera. But like most commentary, such a statement cannot be made alone. Only through the voices of many will such a statement truly be heard.
Compositionally, I’m quite satisfied with the way that Ross chose to frame the shot. Sure, you can see a bit of legs cut from their host body, but that’s just context. With his intent in mind, it’s far more important to include both the man with the phones in hand and on his lap and the primary subject (in my opinion), which is the woman who is currently on the phone. The head position would lead one to believe that these two individuals may be together (the actual truth is irrelevant), which only lends further to bolster the statement being made. Some would call these leashes, but are they perhaps more like walls or barriers between the subjects and everyone else? I think the composition helps to emphasize this suggestion.
The colors are quite rich, almost having an HDR quality to it (which may be the case, but I cannot confirm). On one hand, the rich colors add a surreal effect. On the other hand, it really lends to the first to components of the title: Sun and Sea. Rich, bold and bright colors screams a beach type of setting to me. It also highlights the fact that the one guy is wearing jeans while sunning himself…but I digress. The rich colors also highlight a very important aspect of the shot, and that is the shadows. Shadows are important to understand the spaces.
Ross Abraham does a lot of work with street photography, and so making statements with the camera is second nature to him. But his experience and explorations don’t stop on the street; he is also well versed in architecture and landscape photography. In fact, we featured one of his photos, Philadelphia Water Works back in may. So be sure to check out his works and let him know we sent you.