I bumped into this work of art in a public garden in Brussels. I immediately felt the urge to photograph it. But how? I did not have any decent camera with me. Luckily my Galaxy S2 proved to be quite useful. Not bad for a smartphone picture right?
Finding the right perspective was the hardest. I took a few exposures from varying positions but it didn’t work out the way I wanted. So I took a step back and asked myself: What do I see here? A representation of people carved out in wood, obviously, but what’s the story behind them?
I imagined the one guy being some kind of leader as the other three are looking at him. And so my point of perspective was chosen. I took an exposure and it felt exactly right.
Well, not entirely: being a smartphone the picture defaulted at a 16:9 format, showing an empty space to the right. That did not add anything to the image so I cropped it out. I always remember Bruce Barnbaum in his book The Art Of Photography that the world was not created in 35 mm (or 16:9, or 3:2, or whatever format).
The original image was in color and I was unsure as to leave it that way or make it black & white. I chose black & white eventually as there was too much green in it and I preferred a more softer, mature look. Note that it’s not just black & white but a duotone with a little orange in both shadows and highlights to convey a warmer feeling. Plain B&W can be pretty harsh.
Finally I took down exposure (i.e. make it a bit darker) to emphasize that these wood men are meeting in peace. A little darkness provides softness. I resisted the temptation to increase contrast. I really like higher contrast, but it’s only suitable for conveying strong feelings.