SPAIN. Extremadura. Province of Caceres. Deleitosa. 1951. Members of the Guardia Civil, the rural police force in charge of patrolling the countryside. From "Spanish Village" photo-essay.

Analysis of some great compositions:

Why W. Eugene Smith?

Simply put:

I think W. Eugene Smith is one of the greatest photographers who have ever lived:

  1. His insane work ethic, and his perfectionism.
  2. His deep humanity for those he photographed. He didn’t censor his photos; they show the deep tragedy of human life. Yet his photos celebrate life and hope.
  3. His simple, soulful, and timeless compositions. His photos aren’t easy to look at– yet, they are still beautiful (with all the pain).

Let us do a deeper dive into analyzing why his photos are so great:


Part 1: W. Eugene Smith – SPAIN

Video slideshow


GIF

Part 1 GIF:

Part 2 GIF:


Making of:


1. W. Eugene Smith: Spanish Militia Men

Download .ZIP with all JPEG and Photoshop file:


Photo meta data: SPAIN. Extremadura. Province of Caceres. Deleitosa. 1951. Members of the Guardia Civil, the rural police force in charge of patrolling the countryside.
From “Spanish Village” photo-essay.

militia 0.jpg

W. Eugene Smith: One of the greatest photographers who have ever lived.

Let us analyze one of his pictures, ‘Spanish Militia Men’. It has a simple composition– 3 men, at different distances (foreground, middle-ground, background). Good depth.

Generally speaking, multiple-subjects seem to work best in 3 subjects.

Also, great separation between all the three guys (strong ‘figure to ground’)

If we apply ‘Gaussian Blur’ in Photoshop, you can see their clear separation:

militia 1.jpg

See more– the separation of all the subjects:

militia 2militia 3militia 4militia 5militia 6

Now let us analyze the layers. Red is foreground, Cyan is middle-ground, Pink is background:

depth 0depth 1depth 2depth 3depth 4

depth 5.jpg

More analyses in Procreate with ipad:

I think the fact that there is perfect symmetry with 3 people is essential:

Also, note the edge detection:

SPAIN. Extremadura. Province of Caceres. Deleitosa. 1951. Members of the Guardia Civil, the rural police force in charge of patrolling the countryside. From

Principle 1: Does it still work deconstructed?

Principle 1:

If you can destruct/deconstruct a photo with filters, and you can still get a sense of what is going on– it is a strong photograph.

To test this, let us use more Photoshop filters, to continue to de-construct the image:

Half Tone

color half tone

Crystallize

crystallize 1crystallize 2

Find Edges

find edges 0

High pass

high pass

Maximum

maximum

Minimum

minimum

Mosaic

mosaic 1mosaic 2

Oil paint

oil paint

Pointallize

pointallize 1pointallize 2pointallize 3pointallize 4pointallize 5pointallize 6

Trace Contour

trace contour 1trace contour 2trace contour 3


Noise

By adding noise, you can actually see the photo better:


Dust and Scratches

Note with the Dust and Scratches filter– you can simplify the separation between all the subjects:


3D

3D Bump Map:

3D Normal Map:


Part 2: W. Eugene Smith – HAITI

HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.

A haunting image in Haiti — a patient in a mental institution. The anonymity of the photo (not being able to see the subject’s face) heightens the intensity of the picture.

Download Part 2

Download .ZIP with all JPEG and Photoshop file:

GIF

Silhouette

First note the silhouette:

Division of the frame

01.jpg

Also note how the frame is divided:

HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.

Edge Detection

HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.

With the edge detection:

HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.HAITI. 1958-1959. Patient in a trance in a mental institution.


Part 3: W. Eugene Smith – LEPER PATIENT

w eugene smith leper patient religious medal.jpg

Photo: Leper patient and religious medal. From “A man of mercy”, 1954:

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Why is it a great photo?

To me, the symbolism is this:

The battle between hope (religious medal on his back), and potential death (leprosy — a disease that was once thought to only happen to “sinners”).

GIF

Analysis:

Gaussian Blur:

blur 01.jpg

Curve movement of his body:

curve 01.jpg

His body follows the ‘golden triangle‘ composition:

golden 1golden 2

Now painting in his body gestures– with the polygonal lasso tool in Photoshop, and highlighting certain details:

w eugene smith leper patient religious medal

shape 01shape 02shape 03shape 04shape 05shape 06

Further simplified:

shape 07.jpg

shape 08.jpg

With overlays:

overlay 1.jpg

overlay 2.jpg

overlay 3- soft light.jpg


Learn more: 7 Lessons W. Eugene Smith Has Taught Me About Street Photography >

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