The subjects might be similar, but varying the approach
can make them different
Photographers are always looking for different ways to shoot subjects that seem to come up again and again. The key to finding a different approach is to vary the way we photograph the subject. Even if the subjects are performing routine tasks—talking, writing, typing or
just listening—we can vary our approach to their scale, reaction, attitude and context.
We can reveal less, thereby emphasizing a key point. Or we can shoot from an entirely
different position or distance, changing the meaning of the picture in the process.
The three examples I feature here are similar in that they all deal with a universal
subject: people cleaning things. The stories they tell are entirely different, however.
In my first example, left, which I
took in Kochi, India, I juxtapose a
street sweeper at work in the foreground with another working in the
far background. One of them appears
to be much larger, adding emphasis
and a sense of perspective to the scene.
She brings the strongest coloration to
the image as well. Both are unidentifiable—my camera position as well
as the backlighting abstract them and
make them symbolic, rather than literal,
figures. Meanwhile, my high vantage
point stresses the circular flow of cobblestones, etched with the mark of a
broom. The stones link both workers to
a given sphere of work, with the street
itself becoming a matrix that speaks of
teamwork featuring a rhythmic, systematic approach to the task.
The woman in my second example,
next page, which I made in Pingyao,
China, stands much closer to us. She
holds a mop and is about to start cleaning
the area in front of her shop. Once again,