Every photographer I’ve ever met strives to improve and have others appreciate their work. An important part of that is receiving honest and thoughtful feedback about what you did right and what you can do better. But good feedback can be very hard to find.
For this reason, we decided to dedicate one podcast episode each month as an Evaluation Show critique show. And today is our very first one.
Each Evaluation Show will feature one photographer who submits three images for review. During the program Ashley Hunsberger, editor of SPM, and I will take turns giving our own individual evaluations of each photo. The photographer will be asked to join us as we discuss what we like, and what we don’t like and what we suggest (if anything).
This is brand-new for us so and we’re excited to learn where it takes us.
Our first evaluation participant is Jake Metzger from Christchurch, New Zealand. Jake contacted me several weeks ago to ask me I evaluate his portfolio. Instead, I invited him to submit three of his photos to be evaluated on the podcast. He jumped at the chance.
Jake is a very talented street photographer who working to be a photojournalist. He’s already doing some excellent work and he’s eager to do better. Although there’s an 18 hour time difference between we were able to work it out so that could join us live during the recording. And I’m glad he did. We had a very lively conversation about his images and photography in general.
Where to find Jake
First impressions: City feels big, eyes drawn upwards with the buildings makes me feel small. The subject is a bit mysterious – body mostly obscured by his sack of who knows what. This feels very documentary/journalistic and I like it for that. And props to catching Kathmandu so deserted, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shot with so few people. Without the crowds, I feel like I’m seeing a real part of the city. Love the way the man is stepping too. Something about it…This one has a timeless, classic quality it could’ve been taken 50 years ago.
The story I see is one of the hard work and sometimes tough lives of everyday people in Kathmandu. So often you see the mystical crowded city, but this to me is more real, a moment most tourists would miss as they walk the streets with their tourist eye.
Although this photograph was taken on a very narrow street Jake chose to crop it a bit on each side. This helps the view feel the sense of being confined to a tight space. I also like how he captured the subject just as he steps from the shadows into the light.
The only thing the that doesn’t work in the photograph is the truck just ahead of the subject. It’s the same dark tone the same as the subject’s head which causes it to blend into the truck. This makes him much less prominent in the frame because it prevents him from being isolated from the lighter background.
This causes the viewer’s eyes to move up the page beyond the subject and focus on the buildings farther down the street. Little things can make a big difference.
Of course Jake had no control over the situation. Had he waited for the truck to move away, the subject would have done so as well.
Jake shot this photo using a film camera for the very first time. That’s no small feat after leaving the comfort of the digital world. I really like how he shot this wide-open blurring the people on the sidewalk in the background. I also like how he captured the joyous expression on his subject’s face. Another second before after and he would’ve missed it.
But I kept noticing how my eyes would travel from the main subject to the man on the right who is closer to the camera and slightly out of focus. Then my eyes would travel back to the smiling man. But had that man not been in the picture, it would have been a weaker shot. Jake could have increased the depth of field by stopping down to keep both men in focus, but then the background would be sharper as well. As with everything else in photography (and life) it was a tradeoff.
First Impressions: This image is a positive take on the streets and real life. It’s refreshing. What I am drawn to is the human interaction here. When I look at this image I feel connected with its subjects. I feel like humanity is in general good.
I like the composition. The blurred man in front blurred subjects in background lend to the rule of thirds and the fact that subjects go big to small lead my eye through the scene from right to left.
To improve: I think I would have liked to see these guys with a cleaner background, they are such interesting subjects. But hey, this is street photography and you can’t always control the background, you worked with what was there and I love the result.
First impressions: Beautiful colors here, but to me there’s a story here too – and one that is not so surreal – one of seeing beauty when forced to live in the elements and perhaps in poverty. The rich green plant life and humidity eating away at the walls contrasts with the brightly painted walls and the woman’s sari. It’s as if harsh living conditions are trying to eat away the beauty.
I like how the woman’s sari contrasts with the wall but her skirt blends with the grass – interesting. The contrast in size between the boy and the woman makes for an intriguing visual point too. He looks so small crouched like that. It appears he is using the bathroom – a common sight here in Bolivia and if so I’d say it just adds to the contrast between beautiful colors and strong people with difficult living conditions.
There is a lot to like about this photograph. The colors are strong and the contrast of the woman sari against the green wall is striking. It’s almost a textbook implementation of the Golden spiral with the child’s rear end at the focal point.
This image gives us a strong sense of place with no mistaking that the photograph was taken somewhere in India. It raises questions about the woman. Did she react to the child using the front porch is a toilet as she walked by, or did she just ignore is just another day in the neighborhood?
Jake says he took the photograph mainly because of the colors, but he caught much more than that. It’s always nice to have a happy accident. Well done.