A visit to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to research the service records of my grandfathers further inspired me to look back through family photographs. This group portrait photo of some members of my family was taken in the late 1950’s.
What took my interest was the way the group shot is taken (I presume by another family member as it is taken outdoors – not in a studio); but more so by what was included in the photo. Often today, family group photos are taken against clean and uncluttered backgrounds, or at least that background objects are not in focus. The aim is to keep the viewers attention on the family and the group dynamics. There is a plethora of advice, tutorials, workshops and books available today advising you to take this approach.
However, I felt this image not only kept my attention on the group; it also provided me with a historical context – in the cars, the angle they are parked on the street, the white picket fence and the buildings. Usually we are left to understand what year or decade we are looking at from clothing and hair styles. This valuable and interesting information would have been missing if the group had been shot in tight; and viewing this image over 60 years later I found myself more engaged than in other photos where the back ground elements were not included.
I also like the way this group are drawn together to create an feeling of natural intimacy and bond. Contemporary editorial photography strives to catch these moments – the candid moments.
The photographer may well have had some training in photography – but most likely that would only have extended to how to operate the camera. Yet, they have created a visually pleasing photo that meets some fairly basic rules of composition.
We become very focussed on what not to include in our images to ensure there aren’t distractions that draw our eyes away from the subject.
Slow down, be thoughtful about what you want to include in your images and how to compose them. You are capturing a moment in time in your family history or creating that for someone else.