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Chris Crawford I am pleased to announced a long time member has agreed to help and mentor others in photographic technique. As he has long done so, perhaps this forum is a bit overdue. Christopher Crawford has been a professional artist and photographer for 20 years, most of that time spent documenting life in northern Indiana with his photographs and the stories that he writes to accompany them. In addition, Chris also creates tutorials where he teaches photography techniques, film processing, digital editing, film scanning, and printing. Ask Chris your technical questions, or to critique your photos. You can see more of his tutorials at http://crawfordphotoschool.com

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Photos Under Discussion #2 Jim Hawkins
Old 02-17-2018   #1
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Photos Under Discussion #2 Jim Hawkins




The Subject

This is Jim Hawkins, the owner of the New Paris Store in the small town of New Paris, Indiana. New Paris is a tiny town in Elkhart County, a few miles south of the city of Goshen.

New Paris Store is a tiny storefront built in 1901 as a drug store, and it still has the original molded tin ceilings. Jim opened the store in 1978. It is basically a convenience store, selling cigarettes, candy, and some grocery items. All the things piled up all over the store are items Jim has bought from customers to sell on eBay. Most of the town's people are unemployed.

Cigarettes are far and away the best selling items at the store; Jim told me that 70% of his sales are cigarettes!

Jim said that times have been tough in recent years. The high unemployment in the town has made it harder and harder for his customers to buy things, and recently a large chain, Dollar General, had opened a store just outside of New Paris on the highway that runs past the town.


The Photograph

I wanted to do a portrait of Jim that would show both him and his store. Since he's the owner, and he runs it by himself with no employees, I wanted him behind the counter. I also wanted to show the unique old building in which the store is located, and I wanted to show the kind of merchandise Jim sells.

The store is a cramped space. To show it well, I needed a wide angle lens. I used the 24-105mm F4L-IS Canon lens at around 24mm. This let me show Jim in the foreground, while the background shows off the store's ceiling, the shelves full of grocery items on the sides of the store, and the piles of stuff he is selling on eBay that fill the center of the store's floorspace. The cigarettes, the store's biggest sellers, dominate the other products in the photo.

I tried several compositions, including one looking toward the counter straight-on. In the end, this one was the one I liked best, as it best fulfilled my goal of showing both the store and its owner.

Exposure was a bit of a challenge, as the store was rather dark inside. Many of the lights, as you can see in the photo, did not work. I had to shoot at ISO-6400, handheld. I couldn't have used a tripod and a lower ISO for two reasons. One, the store is so cluttered that there was simply no place to set up a tripod! Two, I needed a reasonably high shutter speed to ensure that Jim would be sharp. No one can stand rock-still for a long exposure!

I think I successfully depicted the little store and its struggling owner, who perseveres despite the difficulties of running a small business in an economically depressed place.
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Old 02-17-2018   #2
madNbad
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Chris,
If it's possible, could you link it to a larger image? There's a lot going on and I for one would iike a better look.
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Old 02-17-2018   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madNbad View Post
Chris,
If it's possible, could you link it to a larger image? There's a lot going on and I for one would iike a better look.

That's the biggest one I have online.
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Old 02-17-2018   #4
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OK, I'll just scoot closer to the monitor. The expresion on his face has kind of a "Mona Lisa" smile, like feeling he needs to smile for the photograph but there is so much else going on in his life and not much to smile about. Thanks for these views of an often over looked part of the U.S.
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Old 02-17-2018   #5
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It is everything an environmental portrait should be, as you wanted. The clutter almost fades away in that it's too busy to distract, much like a patterned background.
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Old 02-17-2018   #6
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I wish you posted other versions. This one doesnt do anything for me. Anyone with an IPhone could take this picture. While you may have put some thought into the composition, I just dont see it. Sorry. I like interesting photos, that are different, that grab you - this one is just - yet another pic that doesnt stand out from the crowd to me. This would be a good pic for a newspaper article but if you wanted something beyond that - I am not sure its there.
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Old 02-17-2018   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madNbad View Post
OK, I'll just scoot closer to the monitor. The expresion on his face has kind of a "Mona Lisa" smile, like feeling he needs to smile for the photograph but there is so much else going on in his life and not much to smile about. Thanks for these views of an often over looked part of the U.S.




Here's a close crop of Jim's face.
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Old 02-18-2018   #8
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My take…this picture could have been taken anywhere and I find it uninteresting. This is also why I find the accompanying text contrived…to the point of annoying, since the picture does not project what you intended to capture. Cheers, Peter
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Old 02-18-2018   #9
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Maybe Jim Hawkins or relatives will be happy some day to have this picture. This is the banality of our life, rarely documented and archived.

I have a brother in law, kind of active, clever (or looking like), multi businessman, wine connoisseur and so on, my picture shows his smiling other than Mona Lisa type.
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Old 02-18-2018   #10
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Sometimes when you want to document a scene, it's just not possible to get a perfect or very interesting composition, the place just looks like it does, you can't step everywhere etc. This composition is good enough and the picture probably conveys very well what's there, his expression and the shop's interior say to me „it's not always been easy, but I carry on“. In this one, I think the text helps the picture and the picture helps the text.
I like how the ceiling and stucco show a glimpse a past grandeur that's been swallowed up in everyday life, in more pragmatic times. I would however prefer to sacrifice a little of the ceiling and see to the bottom of the pile of video games or dvds on the left. That would also have placed Jim Hawkins a bit higher up in the picture which I think yould also be a plus. Good that there's enough light where he's standing!
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Old 02-18-2018   #11
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My immediate reaction is frame tighter. But I do understand why you've chosen a wider perspective. As a single photo it doesn't capture my attention. But maybe a series would?
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Old 02-18-2018   #12
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would the folks who don’t find the photo visually arresting be ok if chris took an approach like alec soth, who sometimes spends time cleaning and rearranging stuff in the room and sets up lighting to make a more photogenic setting (that still conveys the same information)? or is that forbidden in documentary photography?
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Old 02-18-2018   #13
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I find this a good environmental portrait. The man who seems me a quite man, the place where he works and spend most of his time, the merchandise...

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Old 02-18-2018   #14
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I've thought about it a little more and it seems to me that the way you framed this, with Mr. Hawkins small and low in the frame, makes him look dominated by the stuff that's everywhere aroud him. It would be easy to feel like he his, with the shop so crammed with merchandise. If however you want to portray him as the master of these things, putting him higher and/or bigger in the frame might give him more authority.
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Old 02-23-2018   #15
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Chris' photo must be evaluated on the basis of how it fits into an overall body of work with a specific goal. In fact Chris' closing sentence tells us exactly what he wanted the photo to accomplish.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
.................... I think I successfully depicted the little store and its struggling owner, who perseveres despite the difficulties of running a small business in an economically depressed place.
Now it certainly is easier to critique the photo on a stand alone basis using common more objective criteria. But that is totally missing the point of why the photo exists.

My critique would be agreement with Chris that he met his objective in conveying the visual support for the point he was attempting to document.
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Old 02-23-2018   #16
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Chris try cropping from the top. Take off about 40% of the top of the photo and you e got a much better image. As it is now the empty space at the top distracts and weakens the image. Too I'm not sure color does anything for this kind of image. Also there needs to be some dodging around and on the person. He's in a dark area with much brighter areas behind him which pulls your eye away from him. I'd also burn in the white counter in front of him which is another distraction.

Sadly the digital era has caused people to forget they can dodge and burn. Often dodging and burning makes the difference between a strong image and one that's just average.
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Old 02-23-2018   #17
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Yep: Tough crowd. I like the photo. I agree with Bob that Chris accomplished his objective. Does there really have to be some other reason to justify it?

Many of these things become more significant with the passage of time. Solo practitioner retail is a dying breed. The ceiling ...as best as I can see, is something special in retrospect. Ordinary at the time, a thing no longer done. Modern would be open with the ductwork hanging down. There's an old time look to this that's way more common in rural, working areas. Tough to get and keep any income you can.
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Old 03-31-2018   #18
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It's not a bad photo but it seems to be missing something, and I can't quite put my finger on it. As that isn't very helpful I'll try to elaborate a bit! It is a pretty wide shot as you are showing the store as part of the story, but Jim fades into it a bit too much. You could crop out a bit of the top but it may end up too chaotic without any relief. The lighting in the right hand half is more interesting than the left - maybe a highlight on Jim would pick him out a bit - basically echoing what x-ray says above. I like the view down the two aisles, it leads you along. Did you want Jim looking at you, or would a "busy" pose have worked better, even if it were a falsehood, him pretending you weren't there?
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