PhotoZAP 57: Fight the Darkness

Our critics praise and pan your pictures


“The boy's tangled emotional state has been subordinated to the design of an image.”—Joe Gioia


Photo © John R. Ayala, Jr., Jacksonville, FL. Gear: Canon AE-1 Program, lens not known, mounted on a tripod, Tri-X film. Exposure data not recorded.

Photographer’s statement: “This photo happened by chance....The boy is my wife's nephew.  He was going through a tough time at the moment; I happened to see him, and took the shot.  He is now in his 30's, I am hoping to photograph him again now then put both photos together.”

Our critics say…

Mason Resnick: The apparent dark mood of the boy is reflected in the extremes of light and dark permeating this image. However, the composition, for me, misses the mark. The shadows are too deep and the shirt is a bit too bright. I would have printed it on a lower-contrast paper. (Oh, it feels good to say that in this digital age!) I wish I could see more detail in his shadow-obscured eye. I also think cropping it to a 3:2 ratio, taking out his bright T-shirt and the bright corner of wall on the right would strengthen the image by taking away bright, distracting elements and moving the boy more towards the bottom left corner, which would show a greater sense of isolation.

Joe Gioia: Mason gets to the heart of the technical problem here, noting the undue extremes of shadow obscuring too much of the figure, and the distracting framing. I'll add that a film noir study (the shadow of a venetian blind being an over-used effect of that genre) of an obviously upset child is poor use of a camera. There's no evidence here of understanding or engaging the subject on his own terms; one even doubts the photo was made with his permission. Instead, the boy's tangled emotional state has been subordinated to the design of an image. Sometimes for a good picture, you put the camera down first.

Jack Howard: This is an interesting image for a number of reasons. First, we insisted that both the photographer and the subject of this critique (now an adult) were OK with its usage in PhotoZAP, as this is a challenging and powerful image that shows childhood pain and emotional discomfort. It could very easily appear in a public-service campaign for some unfortunate social issue. I personally think the very high contrast and clipped shadows and highlights work well in this image. The sunlit streaks of the subject’s face are right-on. The deep shadows and hot whites are conflicted, but there's something about the directional streaks leading towards the upper right that offers hope.

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