Thursday, 26 February 2009

SNEAKY SNAPS

In a short-lived series of blogs (there was just the one!) I wrote about how I arrived at a particular photograph. Having temporarily run out of blog ideas I'm reviving the idea to discuss a picture (left) that I included in one of my New Year blogs from Venice.

We noticed the couple in a box at the New Year's Day concert at the Teatro de Fenice and then, afterwards, in the crowd milling around outside the theatre.

We were fascinated and intrigued by them. Who were they? What were they? Mother and son? Patroness and artist? Mistress and toy boy?

I photographed them first looking at graffiti on the wall of the Church of San Fantin...


And, wisely or not, converted the image into black and white...


But whilst I liked their silhouetted forms against the scarred white wall of the church, I wanted to capture their striking facial features.

The trouble is, I lack the blatant confidence to photograph people on the fly, so we had to resort to a ruse we've used on numerous occasion: one of us pretends to pose for a picture, while the other shoots over the shoulder at whoever we're really trying to capture on film. Cowardly, I admit, but occasionally successful!

Shooting over David left shoulder I got this picture...


I liked the expression on the woman's face and the fact that they were looking in opposite directions but it was cluttered by the distracting presence of other people and too much background...

So, I cropped the picture quite ruthlessly tight which had the effect of appearing to draw the couple closer together while accentuating the fact that they were not looking at one another. I then tinkered with the exposure and contrast and put the whole thing (again) into black and white which, I think, intensifies the silhouetted profiles as well as the textures of the fur coat, the hats and the leather handbag.

They still intrigue me and I wonder what lies behind their confident, imperiously disdainful way of looking at the world.

One day, I shall put them into a story...


Images: Brian Sibley © 2009

8 comments:

Andy J. Latham said...

Perhaps they are looking over each other's shoulders at other couples! You might feature on one of their blogs!

Brian Sibley said...

Of course! Why didn't I think of that?!

Suzanne said...

I think they look rather poignant really. If I could write stories it would make a great one!
Maybe a couple trying to decide to break up because their relationship wasn't working?

LisaH said...

How frustrating not to know! I think I'd have been tempted to try and at least identify what language they were speaking and perhaps engineer a way of engaging them in conversation.
In the meantime, though, they've become your characters and it should be fun developing persona for them.

Brian Sibley said...

SUZANNE - I think they were probably mother and son (in which case he was probably not of the marrying kind), but I'd rather believe they were lovers...

She is Venetian, a widow and very wealthy; he a dilettante - possibly a would-be painter or poet - from Florence who visited Venice and encountered the Signora taking coffee in the sun outside Caffè Florian. She was reading Machiavelli's The Prince and he introduced himself as a son of Machiavelli's birthplace. By that evening they had become lovers. But that was ten years ago...

LISAH- They are definitely Italian. When we included this picture in an exhibition of our photographs in Venice, we were told that they were familiar faces in the city, although no one knew who they were...

carlarey said...

I think she's the wealthy aunt, and he is the ne'er do well son of her sister who married unwisely. He is angling to be named her sole heir.

Boll Weavil said...

Its better not to know who they are. I have always found that people like this live far more interesting lives than we do or perhaps they are just the same but they make a bigger deal out of it.I think the story is actually in the taking of the picture because everyone has a photograph that's got away through lack of bravery. Mine was on Southwold Pier where two old gentlemen sat, like bookends in deckchairs, mouths open, sound asleep.They didn't have a tooth between them and the sight gave great amusement to passers by.I always wished I'd just done it. One moment of courage for a lifetime of memory...
CREEL : The photograph of Morecambe Bay with the sea so still you could see the yellow and orange sunset over the mountains reflected in it.This was the picture I didn't take because my camera was in the car.

Brian Sibley said...

CARLAREY - Well, lover or nephew, I think we're agreed he's definitely a ne'er-do-well.

BOLL - You're so right! We've also got a big, fat album of untaken photos!

I try to remember the maxim of my friend, Pierre Vinet (the photographer on The Lord of the Rings movies), who always had a camera ready: "Once you've seen it," he used to say, "you've missed it!"

Unless, that is, you saw it through the view-finder of a camera. And that's what separates the professional photographer from someone like me, whom Pierre dubbed: "A snap-happy chappy"!