PHOTOGRILL: Why did you take this photo?
PHOTOGRAPHER: It was for a story about North Mebloune Football Club’s young midfield line-up. I just had to make a strong shot.
PHOTOGRILL: What can this photo say about photography?
PHOTOGRAPHER: The most important aspect in photography is not to do with composition or lighting or technical aspects, it’s the integrity of the image. A photograph makes a visual statement. In order for it to have an impact on the viewer, all the aspects of the picture should support one theme, or at least not distract from it. For example a key part of the central theme of any photojounalistic image will be that the image is a statement of the truth about a situation. So for example if you use obvious lighting techniques or filters to help get your message across then your image may lose integrity. Especially if people no longer believe it’s a straight record of history, instead it’s a statement from the photographer.
On the other hand for example, if you’re making a portrait of a celebrity who is known for their flambouyance. Then the picture might gain integrity with the use of obvious lighting and filters. So that obvious technique can add to the statement. But it’s the statement that the picture is making that drives all other issues, from technique to colour, to exposure, to lighting etc. And the statement may have layers of meaning. For example if your photo is about an issue in conflict then your picture can use conflicting imagery, ‘high key’ (light and dark), strong expressions or body language, contrasting colours. Each of these might also talk to the subtler statements the picture is making.
PHOTOGRILL: What does integrity mean to the viewer of a photo?
PHOTOGRAPHER: If I’ve done my job well as a photographer then the first thing the viewer of an image will do is to forget that I even exist, as though this image is a statement directly from the world itself. Then perhaps after they’ve gathered themselves, they’ll want to know the photographers name. This is what integrity does, when all the parts of an image work like an orchestra. Each member of the orchestra is saying something slightly different.Together they add up to a wonderfully complex statement. A statement that is delivered in a split second.
PHOTOGRILL: Why is this photo an example for integrity?
Sillitoe: There are a few reasons why I think this particular image has integrity. It was taken on a flat grey day, my first reaction was to use lighting to brighten it up. But then the rainy background would ‘dis-integrate’ the image. The football oval could’ve been removed from the background, but the picture would no longer tell a story. So I decided to emphasise the grey rainy day. I used a tungsten tinted warming filter on two little Canon Speedlight 580EX flashes, placed on light stands. Then I set the camera (a Canon EOS1D mkIV) to compensate for the warm tungsten light. That would exagerate the blueness in the grey background, making it appear as it actually was, cold and wet. Doing that made the players stand out from the background, and so the image seems to be saying they stand tall and are made of the ‘right stuff’. So the ‘right stuff’ poses are adding to the orchestra as well. The lighting position also helps. It’s clear the players are indoors (protected), so lighting from the front would’ve been ok, because you’d expect a light in the room. But instead the lighting from behind adds something different. It makes sense in this image, as though they are lit by the light spilling in from outside or from porch lights.
PHOTOGRILL: What’s another way lighting integrity might be useful?
PHOTOGRAPHER: Here’s another lighting integration tactic I sometimes use for indoor portraits. Let’s say the setting is a room with a window on the left, maybe it’s even in the frame. It’d be easier to get my light-stand in place from the right. But for the integrity of the image it makes more sense to place it to the left of the camera. Maybe with a soft colour co-ordinated reflector from the right, as though the window light hit a piece of furniture and bounced back. The light will not only look nice, it’ll look like it belongs there.
PHOTOGRILL: This may sound all very well for a photographer who is controlling every aspect of the shoot. But what about if you’re a street photographer or a photojournalist?