Deborah S.

A few weeks ago, Ricky Tims' photo challenge was "scissors."  I explored the theme in a number of ways, including a photo shoot of a couple of my mother's dolls and metal scissors.  Here are my thoughts/critiques about this photo.

·       I like the use of the lower F-stop here, where the focus is crisp on the central hinge of the scissors and much of the rest is in soft focus.  My goal here was to create a sense of menace, and I think the sharp focus on the scissors does that well.  The focus on the hinge of the scissors also puts us in a defined location that is both stable and has "leverage."  It's not a bad place for a visual anchor.  It also puts us into the middle of the photo, approaching the doll figure.

·       The soft focus of the doll and truncating the shot in her torso makes her "every girl" -- she stands in for all females and lacks a singular identity.  I found that shots including the full face of the doll seemed less impactful; I think her obviously doll-like features detract from the emotional impact.

·       I like that the placement of the main figures is not in the center of the photo.  I don't know that I followed the rule of thirds here, but at least I'm not planting things dead center.

·       I like that the scissors and doll are at a slight angle -- there is a nice diagonal line created through the image.  I like the energy of diagonal lines.

·       There is a parallel structure of the v-shape of the scissors and of the doll's legs, creating some repetition of form, and also following the diagonal theme of the photo.

·       Positioning the points of the scissors towards her spread legs evokes the idea of danger to her genitalia.  It calls to mind rape, sexual abuse, female genital cutting -- the dangers women face around the world.  The fact that the doll's attire is girlish and old-fashioned increases the emotional impact.

·       The low angle lets us follow the path of the scissors, making the image more visceral than if we viewed it from above or from the side.  It is as though we are wielding the scissors.  (Hmm -- what if we were even closer so that the handles of the scissors were truncated?  Would that make it feel as though we were actually holding the scissors?)

·       The scissors are large but not outsized.  These are embroidery scissors (smallish); when I did shots with sewing shears, there was a different feel with scissors that were so much larger than the doll.  I thought it would evoke greater menace (and perhaps it did), but it also created a greater sense of unreality.  This feels appallingly realistic in some ways, even though it is a doll.

·       I'm glad to have put down black velvet for the photo shoot -- there are no distracting elements of wood grain or other surfaces.  We are focusing entirely on the main subjects here.  I don't usually like to do these kinds of posed photo shoots, but I can see their utility -- I did a lot of different shots and was able to pull a number of interesting photos from the shoot.

·       The lighting picks out some nice highlights on the scissors.  I used a location with indirect natural lighting, so I didn't create any special lighting patterns here.  I wonder if a lighting set up could create some interesting effects.  Perhaps more work than I want to do right now, but worth thinking about for the future.

            I like this image -- I don't have a lot to critique at the moment.  But much of this was not planned.  I did have the content message in mind, but most of the specifics of composition came about because I took a LOT of photos, so I had a lot of choices of different f-stops, etc.  So I can't take credit for the specifics of composition, but I can realize that I will need to take a lot of photos to get these elements in place (at least where I am now as a photographer).

            This was not the image I submitted for the photo challenge, in part because it was potentially so emotionally disturbing.  But part of what I like about this is the implied message.  So many of the photos I take are either pure explorations of composition, photo techniques, or "wow, pretty!" photos.  I am not sure that I am likely to create a lot of dark or disturbing photos, but I am glad to have explored the possibility.  It also connects with content themes that matter to me (gender, sexuality, women's rights).  So there is alignment here with my content interests.  Though it won't mean anything to others, it is emotionally significant to me that this is one of the dolls from my late mother's collection.  This gave me the opportunity to reconnect with memories of my mother.

Additional thoughts:  My writing in response to this week's prompt resulted in a couple of interesting realizations.  1) I am not as out of alignment as I would have predicted, though the skills and tasks that I enjoy include a LOT of time spent on tasks I really dislike.  2) While I have my own standards with regard to the quality of my work, I also really want the accolades of others to affirm the excellence (or "perfection") of my work.  Shallow, but true.  3) I need to recognize that I am thin-skinned with regard to criticism of my work, but make sure that this doesn't inhibit my ability to continue to improve my work.  I am unlikely to "toughen up" any time soon, but I can think of ways to manage this personal quality and keep it from shutting my creativity down.