What do you see?

Rob Hornstra

Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 15.48.14

This photograph is part of a much larger project – The Sochi Project, which tells the story of the site of the 2014 Winter Olympic games. This particular photograph was taken in 2009, the subject is a retired shipbuilder called Viktor Alexeyevich who claims that Sochi “used to be much prettier”.

The point of emphasis in this image is Alexeyevich. Hornstra has used the perspective of the railings to draw to viewer’s eye towards the centre of the image where the subject stands. The photograph does not seem to follow the rule of thirds in its composition and the only thing which disrupts the balance of the frame is the lifebuoy. A large depth of field has been used, the railing is what separates the foreground from the background. Hornstra has made sure that the horizon line is straight so that it is a not a distraction from the foreground.

This photograph is subjective; it has obviously been composed in a certain way for a desired outcome. Hornstra has taken the image straight on but from a lower position than his Alexeyevich, giving his subject a sense of power and status which is reinforced by his hat. It looks as though extra lighting has been used on location to illuminate the subject and his garish swimwear.


Content and Meaning

Denotation – What’s in the image?

Connotation – What does the content suggest is happening?

Denotation is generally the subject matter being photographed and connotation is how it is being photographed (Parsa, 2004). Connotation is ideological and emotional. It is dependent on the background of the interpreter, different genders, ages and cultures can create different interpretations. Denotation may be agreed on many people from a similar background, while connotation is subjective unless it is an obvious part of a culture (Chandler, 2002).

Two dimensionality and the Effect of Depth

What is the point of emphasis in the image?

Discuss foreground and background – how are the two separated by the photographer, is the background important to the reading of the image?

What is its significance?

Figure-Ground relations – has the photographer composed the background as well as the foreground?

Is the foreground separated by a shallow depth of field? Are the fore and backgrounds compressed by large depth of field and use of a telephoto lens?

Is perspective used in the image? How do lines of perspective draw the eye through the image? Is there content of the image that is highlighted by lines of perspective?

How has the photographer used framing

Rule of Thirds – is there a use of the rule of thirds in the composition? How does it improve (or otherwise) the effect of the picture?

Classical balance – is the subject centered in the frame? What are the effects of the background elements?

Graphical Elements

Discuss horizontal and vertical lines, how are they arranged, how do they affect the composition?

Diagonals give a sense of instability and dynamism, are they present? What is their effect?

Do the lines and shapes form a point of emphasis? Where is it (or are there several)? Pictorially, what is seen at the point of emphasis?


Where is the camera in relation to the subject? How does this affect the image?


Does the image create an objective or subjective effect? How?


Is external or natural lighting used? How is it used? What is its effect?


Discuss the uses of: colour, texture, shape, rhythm and repetition.

How do these affect the reading of the image?

Concept or Idea

Does the image convey an idea? What is it?


Consider this image the starting point of a series. How would you approach making images that would fit seamlessly alongside this one?


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