Some time ago I got a very relevant question from Elisabeth Maurice. It goes like this:
Hi! I keep turning it into my mind, but need some advice here. I understood the concept you explained very well but I’m not sure how to get such a situation. Maybe I focus to much on one subject at a time and should widen the scope? I certainly lack references too. Would you be kind enough to share some more examples?
Yes, I definitely will try to explain this as I understand it. It is not, however, that we have a schoolbook that we can consult. Many of the notions you will find in this toolbox are newly developed. They are used here for the first time even if the matter they describe are well know in other connections.
You said that you understood the concept very well, but what you would like are more references. Meaning, that I should show you, or point to, photographs where cross transfer or meaning is handled.
I will try to do that.
First of all it is necessary to stress that the cross phenomenon is very fundamental. Every time two or more objects are placed together in a context they rub off on each other. That could be an intended rub off or a non intended rub off.
By intended rub off, I mean a situation where a transfer of meaning is meant to be and perhaps even successful. By non intended rub off, I mean that it is not explicitly meant to be. In the latter case one could say that cross transfer works latently.
We are not going to concern ourselves with latent rub offs here since we are interested in only those situations where the street photographer deliberately intends you deal with cross transfer of meaning in his photograph(s).
Within intended rub offs, I would say, there are two kinds: First you have the congruent or harmonious rub off, and second you have the non congruent or non harmonious rub off.
As that same goes for the non intended transfers/rub offs, we have in total four types of cross transfers:
1. intended – harmonious
2. intended – non harmonious
3. non intended – harmonious / latent
4. non intended – non harmonious / latent
I will only elaborate on the two first types, as mentioned.
In the photograph shown in Commission 02: Cross Transfer the transfer of meaning belong to category 1, since it was intended. I wanted a harmonious rub off from the section with the trash cans and the girl passing in the background. How did I do that? I spotted her coming from behind and I simply waited till I had her in the frame at the right place.
Let me indicate the difference between harmonious and non harmonious rub offs/transfers by using the same basic photograph, but by cropping it differently. The first example is K-Damm Couple. The second is K-Damm Couple (Remake).
I would suggest that the first crop render a harmonious impression, while the second crops end up as a non harmonious impression. In the way we use the terms here.
And now you can rightly say but this is not the way photography works in real life. Street photography is mostly random. Maybe you can plan the main objects to have in the shot, but you can never plan who turns up in the background.
And the answer is, yes that is very and nearly the truth, but when your are sitting in a plane to Paris that can not only have been luck can it? Did luck pay for the ticket and take you to the airport? Hardly.
Let me show you a photograph where you actually find both harmony and non harmony in the same shot. Look at Long Tall Sally. Overall you have an intended harmonious cross transfer, but take a look at the young lady in the right side of the picture. She tends to dissociate from the others and makes for a disharmonious cross transfer. She wants to be on her own.
Luck happens in the details not in choice of direction. In the two K-damm pictures luck are the way she holds her cigarette, the way he smokes his. Luck was also that a couple should pass in the background, but luck was not waiting for them to be in the right place. That was the photographer’s sole decision.
I hear the question: Is it really necessary to know about these things to be a street photographer? Certainly not, but it certainly helps if you do.
And another question: Can this always be controlled? Answer: Certainly not, but if you have it coded in you visual radar you don’t have to think much about it. The situations pops of in front of you. All you have to do is click the camera.
One of the most crucial points to remember with cross transfers it that the objects/subject you deal with have to be visually distinct. There is no use in dealing with these matters if you intend something that can hardly be seen or even discovered by other. So once again: KEEP IT SIMPLE.
This was not a direct answer to your question Elisabeth, but I pointed to some examples. Yes, you should definitely widen the scope. Shooting with both eyes wide open is literally a very good idea. Focus on many objects at the same time, because they are going to be in your frame whether you like it or not. As many as you can.
So then: Cross Transfer, as I see it, is when the street photographer intentionally tries to have content/meaning from one part of picture rub off/transfer to another part in the same picture. Intentions can be to make a harmonious impression or to make a non harmonious impression. It got to be distinct to work. Keep it simple.
I hope you can use some of this.
End of story, but: You will have noticed that I have said not a single word about the photograph accompanying this post: Sporting Life. There is a reason for that: You figure it out. Remember we deal with soft issues here so there are no simple, single answers. Only more of less qualified suggestion.
Should I say good luck with it.
© KNUT SKJÆRVEN. ALL RIGHT RESERVED: TEXT AND PICTURE.
October 5, 2012.