There are times when I shoot a series of photographs and have an immediate fondness for a particular photograph that is not always shared by casual observers. This photo is a case in point. I immediately liked it, but it didn’t seem to hold any particular appeal to viewers when seen with other photos in a slideshow.
I vividly remember taking this. My wife and our friends were standing in line purchasing tickets to go to the top of the Rockefeller Center. I took the opportunity, thanks to their patience, to wander around when I spotted this guy in what appears to be a moment of revery or reflection. There were massive crowds where I was on the upper level; so the juxtaposition of the guy staring out across the ice in relative solitude and the two women at the table right next to him, apparently oblivious, seemed to provide a frame for his moment.
I also liked the balance of light and shadows above left as a counterpoint to the more contrasty and detailed lower right. The angled hand rail and the delineation of the shadowed area on the ice further define the difference between the two zones and drives the eye through the photo. Since the guy is the only element that occupies both sectors of the photo, it brings more attention to him, in my mind.
Did I take all of this into consideration when I took this photograph, of course…not. When I looked down at this scene I was just immediately interested in what was going on there. It said something to me about a moment in the lives of people. So I shot it.
Why black and white? I have never taken a photography class in college and was never a member of the “if it’s not B&W, it’s not art” crowd. But I have been a fan of great B&W photos even if I view it as just another technique. In my own photography I have wondered how to decide when a photo should be in color and when it shouldn’t. I’ve naturally evolved a sense that if the photo has merit but the colors aren’t working toward the intent of the photo, I try it in B&W. If that works better, I go with it.
So do I abandon this photo if it doesn’t appear to have mass appeal? As much as I’d like to have as many people enjoy my photos as possible, the fact that I value it is enough. I may revisit it in a few years and make changes or reassess my opinion; but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process.