Making figures anonymous

The idea of this exercise was to use people within the images but give them some anonymity. The other part of this exercise, one which I found slightly more testing, was to make the photograph about the space rather then the person within it. I am used to giving people context within their environment but, not so much giving the environment context with the aid of people as the context giver. So the anonymity become necessary to show the person within the space but not to be concentrated upon them. The anonymity could be achieved in a number of ways with the camera. Focus blur, motion blur, shadows, size (small in the frame), silhouette and so on.

So what I am looking to achieve in this exercise is to make people, if not integral, then very useful to the scene. Exploiting their presence to better describe the environment.

One image that immediately springs to mind is the famous 1932 image ‘Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare’ made by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Here we have two anonymous figures showing us the somewhat uninviting urban landscape that Cartier-Bresson is trying to describe. He has used silhouettes and with the figure in the foreground he has used motion blur too, to capture the leap in progress. Even though lacking in features, we can see that the figure in the background looks somewhat dishevelled. These two figures though are much less prominent than  they could have been leaving the eye to roam around the rest of the frame to take in the space they inhabit.

Derriere la Gare Saint-Lazare, Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1932

My following images demonstrate some of the techniques I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Goodge St tube station

Goodge St tube station

Here the three figures in the image are facing away from the camera but play their part in the frame. The blur from the train attracts the eye. The dichotomy in this is the Paralympian in the poster is full face. Such is the pull of human to human contact, I suspect this may not quite work in the context of the exercise and I find myself in two minds about it’s legitimacy. However, I do quite like the opposition this gives the image in the exercise.

Brown gate

Brown gate

I think this image works much better as described in the outset of the exercise. The space I photographed holds the gaze and the natural vignette centres the attention. This gives me the chance to wait for a passer-by to come in to frame and balance the image by filling the gap and give it the human interest that you would expect to see in this environment when you can already see the bikes, gates and graffiti.



Out of focus and in the shadows but the figure walking away from me shows, in similar fashion to the previous image, an environment that is better suited to having some human interest within it. It also maybe makes the viewer ask some questions about what, where and why. I feel this photograph holds the attention much better with this anonymous figure in it rather than seeing the same photograph without. It changes it from being a bland urban photo to one that at least may ask some questions.



Another image that I am slightly conflicted about. The size and scale of the people certainly makes them anonymous and they certainly add to the space merely by the fact you may not expect to see them in a back alley, quite obviously not slinking about but sitting and socialising. What conflicts in my mind is they way I have composed the photograph. The lead lines all point directly the people. They sit quite happily on the rule of thirds. They are also the focal point. In retrospect I would probably have changed the perspective and focussed on the bike at the front making the figures in the background more anonymous by virtue of taking the attention away from them.


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