Photography

Get Close, And Then Get Closer To Your Subject.

I go straight in very close to people and I do that because it’s the only way you can get the picture. You go right up to them. Even now, I don’t find it easy. I don’t announce it. I pretend to be focusing elsewhere. If you take someone’s photograph it is very difficult not to look at them just after. But it’s the one thing that gives the game away. I don’t try and hide what I’m doing – that would be folly.”

– Martin Parr – British Journal of Photography interview, 1989

Photojournalist and war photographer, Robert Capa once said,” If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Although this is not always true, very often, nothing kills an image more than distance. Martin Parr, known for his risking thumps, shouts, and dirty looks, gets extremely close to his subjects without asking for permission. As a result, he gets the shots exactly envisioned in his project.

“If you photograph for a long time, you get to understand such things as body language. I often do not look at people I photograph, especially afterward. Also when I want a photo, I become somewhat fearless, and this helps a lot. There will always be someone who objects to being photographed, and when this happens you move on.”

– Martin Parr

In this specific photograph, Parr has got extremely close and filled the frame with the subject. He, here, forces us to notice the subtleties which add up to the peculiarity of this image – the scarlet red lipstick on the somewhat pursed, dissatisfied lips; the golden jewelry on her left wrist; the blue oval goggles with lizard-like eyeholes; and the silver necklace. All these details compel the viewer to form an opinion about the subject.

By getting close – really close – and filling the frame with the subject, you can communicate that single, all-important observation that captured your observation in the first place.

So why does standing further back and giving the image a cheeky crop afterward does not lend the same effect? Think of cropping as a rather fine tuner, and not a way of fundamentally altering your images. It is important that you put yourself in the line of fire to get the shot. If you don’t, your pictures will lack in humor and start to feel too underhand.