Composition vs. Meaning


The above photo was taken in 1991 in the Bronx by New York Times staff reporter Angel Franco. Composed with the urban blight in the background, this Halloween picture of Guisette Muniz, then 6, elicited an outpouring of Times' readers emotions (and gifts). Readers interpreted Muniz's expression to be sad, vulnerable, and worthy of pity, when in reality she was scared--not of the desolate neighborhood--but of her uncle who was inside the apartment in a frightening Chuckie costume. Read more about this photo in the Times here. This also fits nicely with Errol Morris' series in the Op-Ed webpages on propaganda and photography, a fascinating read here. The subject of how photographers compose, put frames around what they see, is worthy of many books of essays. Context is everything.
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