Life Magazine Photographers – Lesson 2

Photographer : Walter B. Lane

Photographer : Walter B. Lane

Lane’s image of a plain office style building encouraged me to reassess my view on urban landscapes. I avoided scenes without clear human subjects for a long time.

The image offers a view into the world of others. Each window gives a small part of a wider story.

Cropping the image removes the visual references that a building would normally have – an entrance, street frontage, sky and other surrounding buildings. The crop enables the brain to switch gears and see the image as something other than a building wall.

The image has been captured at an unusual angle – I suspect Lane was in a position elevated from street level. Perhaps in another building or other higher vantage point. The normal angle of view would be looking upward, whereas this is taken from close to a 90 degree angle to the wall.

The tree branches provide some interest at the bottom of the image. The image becomes gradually less busy towards the top, as the proportion windows with the blinds down increases.

Repetition and parallel lines are a critical part of this composition.

 Lessons :

1. Find an angle from which people would not usually view your subject from.

2. Repetition and parallel lines are a strong visual theme.

3. Change the nature of a subject by cropping in an element.

4. Create an extraordinary image from an ordinary, everyday scene.


Photographer : Edward Clark

Photographer : Edward Clark


Wow, who could muck up a photo of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell? This is almost the reverse of other images from Life – extraordinary people in a very ordinary moment. Contrast the absolute glamour of their costumes, makeup, and the set against the casual break time between scenes.

Contrasting a subject against an overall setting is a technique that can work in many different ways – colour, composition, movement, feeling, etc.

Like the photo of the maid preparing for the picnic in Robert W. Kelley’s photo featured previously, this captures a moment of pause before a rush of activity. Both actresses are preparing for the next bout of filming.

Lessons :

1. Find a moment of pause before the subjects return to heightened activity.

2. Contrast the subject and the setting in different ways.


Photographer - Gordon Parks

Photographer – Gordon Parks

Ingrid Bergman on location for the movie “Stromboli” in Italy. There are a number of compositional techniques combined in this image to create the overall effect.

The photo has been taken from a high vantage point – higher than the normal “head high” perspective we normally view the world at. The camera is looking down gradually at Bergman. The shot has been taken with a reasonably wide angle lens, which enables Begman to be the key focus of the shot but still include high interest elements in the background. Probably not a super wide lens, as the background is still a bit tight.

There is a strong and obvious contrast of the beautiful actress and the dark older women in the background. She is dressed in white and they are all in black, with shawls covering their heads. The women in background almost look religious.

For me, there is also the suggestion of what Bergman will become – the women are looking at her in way that suggests they are waiting for her to “come with them”, to become older like them. Bergman can feel their eyes and gives off a very introverted vibe. The viewer can’t but help imagine what the women are thinking.

Her eyes are following the direction of the path which bisects the image diagonally. The women are following the path to the exit path of the photo in the top right corner. There is also tension between the direction the two parties are expected to travel in the next moment. The women are going to continue down the path to the top left, and Bergman looks as though she is going to move along to the bottom left corner.

Lessons :

1. Movement of subjects in opposite directions can provide tension.

2. Find contrast between two subjects in an image.

3. Keep an eye on Depth of Field. The wider you have your lens open, the less distinct the background will be.

4. Take your shot from an interesting perspective – something other than head height.


You can read part one of this article here.






  1. Life Magazine Photographers – Lessons 1 | Melbourne Street Photography - July 27, 2014

    […] Read part two of this article here. […]


  2. Urbanity Image Review #3 | Melbourne Street Photography - November 7, 2014

    […] I have written about the things I love about this image before here.  […]


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