So, how can this photograph protect you from the Ebola virus? It can't. Seriously, you thought I was going to tell you some magic cure?!? This blog is about photography. If you keep reading, however, I will tell you about vernacular photography.
Much of my work can be described as vernacular photography. And, in my case, the vernacular subject is life in suburban America in the early 21st century. I make photographs of familiar, common, everyday buildings, people, and scenes. In my photographs, you will see things that you immediately recognize as familiar. But, as works of art, I include elements that will inspire you to continue examining the picture and to start asking questions. Where is that? How did you get that? Or, they might inspire you to retrieve a memory and share a story of your own. "This reminds of the time I...." "Oh, I remember when we went there." "That looks just like the one near my house." My photographs capture the vernacular of suburban America, as differentiated from rural life, urban life, or life in other countries.
In the case of this photograph, the row of expensive custom homes (in Clarksville, MD
) behind the soccer field is probably immediately familiar. If you live in the Mid-Atlantic region, you might not even notice that this style of architecture is different from styles common in New England or the Southwest. And, you probably immediately recognize the soccer (or lacrosse, or field hockey) nets. Even though you can't see buildings besides the houses, you probably automatically assume that I was standing near a school or rec center when I captured this shot. Yes, it was a school.
But then, you notice there is a line of Canadian geese across the midline of the image. Again, if you are from the mid-Atlantic region, this scene is not surprising to you at all. Combined with the color of the leaves on the large tree to the right, you recognize the season as Fall. The geese are stopping to rest on their way south for the winter and a soccer field provides a welcome landing zone.
This photograph also represents some of my favorite artistic elements. I like the symmetry of both color and space in the way the blue sky balances the green field. I appreciate the perfection of the horizontal horizon of the tree line that separates the field from the homes in the background. I use a tool in Lightroom that allows me to draw a straight line along that edge and it rotates the image as necessary to make that line the perfect 0-degree horizontal. But, too balanced would be boring. The soccer nets follow the rule-of thirds for composition. They fill the right third section of the image, while the center and the left are open. That un-balance is also supported by the two large trees to right of center, while there is only one large one to the left of center.
To introduce the story to this image, the geese are present in the line across the center. Geese are not normally on an athletic field. They are common during certain times of the year, of course. But, this image would be less interesting if there was a group of kids playing soccer. You would expect to see kids playing soccer. There are millions of photos posted on the internet showing kids playing soccer. Not as many of geese. And, what I believe is also the artistic element of this photograph is that the overall presentation of the image uses the lines, colors, and placement to create a beautiful picture that keeps you interested because it is familiar, but still a bit new at the same time.
Vernacular photography was a specialty Walker Evans
. He captured images of life during the Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration (FSA).