Photos don’t lie (part 2)

So, yesterday I talked about how the viewpoint of a photographer can completely turn around the meaning of a photo, even if two photos are being taken just a few meters apart within a few seconds. Same place. Same time. Completely different photo and meaning.

Now, I would like to follow up on this one because cropping is another important part of photo viewing. Here’s a scene I shot back in 1986, in fact one of my first press photos:

Brokdorf 1986
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Brokdorf, 07-JUN-86 – During a demonstration a group of violent masked men throws stones against the nuclear power plant in Brokdorf, Germany. The power plant was scheduled to go live six days later, on 13th June 1986. While the demonstration was set up to be peaceful, soon a small group of violent opponents took over the lead and had severe fights with the police.

Looking at the photo, you can see that it was a violent scene indeed, but it was only a small group that was violent, acting on limited space. To the left and in the back people are turning away from the scene or just watching it; the whole front area is free of people.

I’d argue that this photo provides “the reality” of the scene as I have seen and experienced it. I think I was using a 50 mm lens, that captures a scene almost 100% as the human eye sees it (that’s the reason the 50 mm lenses were bundled to many SLR bodies in the past, by the way).

But once we crop that image, focusing on the guys throwing the stones, then we get a far more dramatic scene:

Brokdorf 1986, cropped
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Now, please compare this to the original photo. You will see that the violence of the scene (and original photo) is not as hefty as the cropped image tries to suggest. While this is not “a lie” per se, the photo does provide a distorted view of the reality, not exactly beautified, but more violent, more dramatic, more shocking, and also more commercial. What do you think?



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