Our second week photography seminar revolved around answering a series of questions about a photograph that we had not been exposed to prior to the session. We first did this as a group to ensure that everybody understood the task, and then were assigned a photo at random to analyse for our blogs. This is my analyse of the photograph I was assigned.


What time period, decade or year do you think this photograph was created in?

I believe that the photograph was taken relatively recently, sometime within the last fifteen years. Were I to do additional research on the model of the car, I could narrow that field down even further, however I don’t feel that fits the spirit of this exercise.

The vehicle was my initial reason for believing this, it’s general shape and interior, especially the in-car lighting, coming across quite modern. The curve of it’s windscreen giving it away as more of a recent piece of engineering than perhaps other similarly looking models.

Other details that support my theory are the LED string “fairy” lights in the background. LEDs have only been widely used for string lighting, especially on the showcased scale, for the past twenty years or so. In the past, their use was somewhat derided, as early LEDs had very short lifespans and could not output colour as vibrantly as the then-typical incandescent bulbs could.

The image quality itself is also a tell, there is slight digital noise in the dark areas of the composition, especially on the frame of the car, and the aspect ratio is 3×2, standard outputting size for the vast majority of Digital SLR cameras (the most common and popular kind of camera since the widespread adoption of digital photography in the early 2000s).

Where in the world was this photograph taken?

This photograph was taken in the United States of America. I am reasonably confident of that assumption, given the visually distinctive flag prominently on display in the background. I also took the left-hand drive nature of the vehicle into consideration, if I needed any more convincing.

Unfortunately, were the flag not on display, I would be much less confident in my assessment. Yes, the vehicle is left-hand drive, but the majority of the world drive on the right hand side of the road (approximately 66%), and so their vehicles are all manufactured to be left hand drive. I would be limited to perhaps figuring out the continent, which, I would likely ascertain as the Americas, given the ethnicity of all occupants of the car as Caucasian, and the woman on the front, right hand seat of the car having bright blue dyed hair, something commonplace in the West and not so much in Eastern territories.

In a short paragraph, how would you describe the key visual elements of the photograph? What is contained within the frame?

The photograph, in my mind, is made up of two very distinct halves. The first, the half on the right, draws attention to the human subjects of the vehicle. The car itself is shrouded in darkness, it isn’t important, we aren’t supposed to be looking at it as a car, it’s merely a prop that the photographer is using to aid in the composition of his / her image. However, it’s silhouette creates a frame of darkness around it’s occupants, which when combined with the aura of light emitting from the rear of the vehicle, creates almost a vignetting effect that draws our eye to what we CAN see, in this case, the face of the woman in the back seat, and the harsh, back-lit face of the driver.

The second half is that of the string lights, the American flag, and the crucifix that is reflected on the windscreen of the car, tying the whole image together. The string lights, which look to be hung from trees at the side of the road, give the image a very warm glow, the majority of them emitting quite pleasant, orange light, with the accents being green, and red, which give the image festive undertones, which I do believe was entirely intentional as string lights are most commonly known under the moniker Christmas lights.

How are the human subjects of the photograph engaging with the camera/photographer?

They aren’t, at least, not directly. I have very little else to say on the matter.

What, if any directions do you think the photographer may have given to the subject(s) of the photograph?

I don’t believe this photograph was candid, the lighting inside the car is not consistent with anything one would be doing on the road at night, nor would a family sat in the road take too kindly to somebody leaping in front of their vehicle to take a quick snap. However, I don’t believe the photographer gave much direction to his / her subjects, some, yes. But not much. The front two occupants of the car are merely gazing off to the side, however, the rear passengers look, for lack of a better term; bored. The rear left passenger, being a draw of the eye, looks like she may be asleep, while the rear right is laying her head on her hand. Were I the photographer, this would not be accidental. I would be using the full range of the occupants of the car to better my final image and composition.

However, the image is not as sharp as it could be. The aforementioned rear left passenger’s face is ever so slightly soft, evidencing that while I don’t believe the photograph is candid, it also wasn’t meticulously planned out either.

What do you believe the photographer wants, you, the viewer to take from the image?

I think they want me to look at the string lights, and pay particular attention to the crucifix (ergo the eye-line of the human subjects being directed at those particular elements of the composition). Personally, I believe the image to be about the commercialisation of Christmas and how it is becoming less and less about it’s traditional meaning in the typically held American family values, especially in younger generations.

The string lights are Christmas themed, as I mentioned previously about the colour scheme, and the human subjects are looking at them. Considering them. Their eye-line draws yours and invites you to consider with them, and given the only cue you have to consider (other than that LED string lights sure are pretty) is a crucifix, what conclusion you draw is entirely based on your own preconceptions and associations with the image. The generation element of my assessment stems from the fact that the two rear passengers, arguably the youngest in the car, are bored. They are not engaging with the driver, who appears to be much older, perhaps even the rear passengers father.

That said, I think the best thing about any photograph is the possible interpretation from a wide audience. I am but one man, and I’d be very interested in learning how others view this same image.