Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Image of the Month: February

Here's the first critique of one of my images I'm offering the first of each month.  It's an informal insight into the thinking behind the capture and design perspectives that make it worthy of "image of the month".  Again I'll offer my insight but would love to use the this social media platform and technology to its capacity and offer an opportunity for dialogue so it's not just one-way but an actual conversation among the like-minded.  So definitely feel free to offer your thoughts.

Images of Americana happen to be a personal soft spot as I'm visually attracted to artifacts of the past among our present day environment.  A recent trip to Virginia presented me with several opportunities to immerse myself in a small town atmosphere.  For background info, the Coca-Cola sign was painted on the side of a building and a street separated it from the John Deere tractor which was a child's scale scooter on the porch of an old time hardware store.  This image, "Good Taste" demonstrates several of my favorite sub-themes in the design of a great photograph.

Good Taste, © Joanne Scherf, 2011
Although the composition appears rather simplistic there may be hidden elements that are not obvious.  For example what drew me to the potential of the image was 1) the juxtaposition of two classic American icons, 2) the use of complimentary colors as a design element, and 3) relationship of figure/ground.

I must admit I'm a bit of a "brand" geek, particularly of American products, and this image communicates that beautifully.  It combines two great brands of American products; Coca-Cola and John Deere.  The Coca-Cola image in the background is circa 1957 as evident by the slogan "The Sign of Good Taste" which was evident by a little research.  Apparently Coca-Cola changes their slogan frequently so it was easy to date this advertisement painted on the building.  Another element of the Coca-Cola is the red color so identifiable with the brand.  Regarding John Deere, the brand color is green (with yellow trim) and there slogan happens to be, "Nothing Runs Like a Deere".

So, not only is there the juxtaposition of two great American brand icons, but also the interplay of the brand colors of red and green.  A little color design theory here as a quick refresher to help explain my intent.  Red is a warm, active color and categorized as a primary color.  Green is a cool, passive color and considered a secondary color.   Using red and green against each other creates a "complimentary" color.  The advantage of using a complementary color in images, when the opportunity arises, is that it makes a strong pairing since they are opposites on the color wheel. In color photography using color design theory is a strong design element.  One can use color combinations as a way to achieve maximum contrast, intensity, vibrance, and overall stability.  So, overall not only does Coca-Cola and John Deere have complimentary colors of red and green as their brand, but also my luck in seeing them in the frame together complimenting each other.  Upon closer inspection, another bonus is the soft yellow color in the background of the Coca-Cola advertisement that ties in perfectly with the bold yellow trim of the John Deere tractor to create a sense of unity between the two icons. The ultimate opportunity existed not only because I knew some brand history and elements but the extraordinary chance that the two icons would be in the same frame.

The final element that makes this a good image is the use of foreground and background to create some dimension and depth within the frame by implementing the figure ground relationship.  Notice the foreground is in sharp focus while the background is a softer focus so the two elements don't fight each other; another way to demonstrate the use of "complimentary".  Another element I like to play with is creating the composition and frame within the camera such as cropping in the field rather than post-production.  I feel this tight edit and framing controls the focus of the viewer to concentrate closely on the key design element which I believe is the juxtaposition of complementary colors (red vs. green) but also the two iconic brands.  By limiting the field of vision to the composition I've directed the focus mostly on the red vs. green interplay without cluttering the scene with extraneous information that I thought would detract from the main message.  I'm a firm believer that an object does not need to be represented in its entirety (example:  the entire tractor) but rather a purposeful and correctly implemented crop creates a stronger image overall.

Watch for another Image of the Month critique on March 1.  In the meantime share your thoughts with me regarding this posting of my Visual Voice.....my Inner Visions.

1 comment:

  1. I really found your examination of the photo interesting and insightful. I learned something about complimentary color in this post. I too don't believe you need to see the whole object to know exactly what is being shown. Everyone knows a John Deere is a tractor. What's funny is I didn't notice it was a kids toy right away. Your photo also reminded me of the short film that won an Academy Award called "Logorama". Combining the two identity slogans and logos can make a statement all it's own. In the case of the film it was jam packed with 100's of corporate logos. Also your use of focal length to soften the background works really well.

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