Traffic jam near Karkardi, India. Photo from Daily Mail By Parveen Negi
Follow: This crop removes the traffic jam as a subject – the motorcyclist looking over his shoulder is now the focus of the image with many lines drawing our attention to him. We may even suspect that the rider closest with the back back has eye-to-eye contact with the other rider thus emphasising the focus.
Pilgrimage: This tall crop of the left side of the image shows only an interminable procession of cars. They seem to be heading toward the huge billboard in the sky with no other destination evident. There is not exactly a single focus for this image although our eye is drawn towards the billboard – it is not the ‘subject’, but could be! It is the travellers that are the subject still – the mass of them becomes one thing.
Determined: This crop strays little from the impression of the overall photograph… although it lacks the shapes created in the sky by the striding lamp posts, billboard and lorry tops it conveys the same story of a packed traffic jam. Without the nearer rider the man on the motorbike now appears to be gazing at the camera and I could interpret this as a look of either pleading or defiance – so perhaps a look that says “I must go on”.
Conference: Now the traffic jam has been all but eliminated. These vehicles do not appear to be facing the crowded trek portrayed by the wider crops. The street is crowded but maybe it is just busy. The gaze of the rider is now more casual without the traffic situation to put it in context. This could just be a casual glance back… and maybe he is part of the conversation between the two figures ahead of him.
Before cropping the other figures were very much just in the background but now all three of these could be the subject group – a chat on the highway.
Shunt: This treatment removes nearly all context from the stack of traffic. We can discern the nature of the ramp the queue climbs – like from an underpass – and there’s no mistaking the weight of traffic as being a ‘jam’. But again like Pilgrimage there is no single focus – the traffic as a whole is the subject.
The traffic barrier (red) is a major feature of this image as a whole and here becomes a grounding weight to the image. The cars and yellow/green taxis look small beside the might of the red rampart – the traffic looks shunted or channelled against that severe-looking concrete wall topped with a sentry of angular, red teeth.
The title I’ve chosen – Shunt – has multiple meanings to do with pushing things around and controlling flow. It is also a colloquial term, like ‘fender bender’, for when a car runs into the back of another. It’s also a medical procedure to widen an artery.
Rider: This is a very tight crop of just a rider with his back to us. He is definitely the subject of this crop but only because he almost completely fills the frame. It would not be difficult for him to became displaced as the focus by anything else that was in shot – he has is back to us and there’s no narrative to suggest his role.
His image like this seems to stand for the ‘anonymous’ rider – he who can represent all other motocycle riders.
Stuck: This image seems confusing. The red barrier and street lights seem to distract us from what I imagine ought to be the main subject of the photo – the main rider again. He gets lost despite his prominent position among varying lines and angles which all suggest nothing.
Dutch: This image is at the same time interesting and awkward.The most interesting part is the wall at the far left which, on an angle, seems precarious like it might crumble.
I’m not sure what else to make of this. As a ‘real’ scene we are not fooled by the angle – we know this is the camera and we know what upright is. Perhap if there were flying object in the frame it would create more of an interest.
Sky: This crop makes the sky the subject of the image, or at least all of the gubbins that is set against the sky.
I was trying here to take one figure in the ‘background’ to make him the focus. I found that including all of the image above his head helped to do that – it gave him a context. The red barrier plays its part once again by contrasting the man’s white outfit and providing a sense of depth to the composition. Although he is not facing us his profile, just visible, provides enough of a connection to him. His profile is nicely contrasted by the orange truck that provides a paler background just at the point where his face is.
Although our eye is drawn into the distance by the convergence of the lines in the barrier and lamp posts the man seems to be a part of that – like he is in the encompassing pattern of those two sets of objects.
Developing an Illustration
I’m taking the ‘SHUNT’ image and word to develop into an illustration. I’m not sure why this one appeals to me more but it has a sense of the ‘infinite’ about it – endless traffic.
Theatrical aside: It reminds me of a Dr Who episode where the population of a city had been put in a decades-long traffic jam underground (by the big computer that organises everything) in order to save them from the disaster unfolding above ground. (end of aside -back to work).
Sketchbook: I looked at not
Work in progress. Sketched out in pencil then gone over in ink. Pencil will be rubbed out before colouring.
This is the completed line drawing. Straight away I’m looking at this and thinking that there are weaknesses that I hadn’t seen initially.
- Lettering: I had explored a number of different ways to draw the letters but I was looking for a way to integrate the letters into the design whilst keeping them readable. I looked at bold letter shapes to do this…. not really a ‘style’ but they have a quality not unlike a car and I decided to draw them using ‘sketchy’ lines. I like the idea of making them part of the queue of traffic but they are distinct in their orientation and not-overlappingness and this is a bit odd.
- Colour is missing… I’m putting that in later… but I’m now wondering bout how red the ‘teeth’ should be. Red was their colour in the base photograph but it was dark and dusty and didn’t overpower the image – all the cars had colour and brightness in the photograph but in my illustration there will only be the colour that I put there. I’ve already conceived making the tail-lights look like blood but nowI’m wondering if that effect can live with too much colour on the page… would it need to be the only colour?
- I had conceived the traffic to be grimy but it has come out looking quite tidy. I thought the hatching on the glass rear windows would help – it has – but not enough at a larger scale.
On the other hand there are some things that have appeared that fit quite interestingly into the theories of composition…
- Diagonals. There are two slanty-aspects: the lines of traffic and the ‘teeth’ grilles. Both of these should add ‘dynamics’ to the image.
- Horizontals and verticals: These both exist in the image… the horizontals are very thin across the road. I was hesitant about making these too strong in case they took over. They improved the image over not having – a texture on the road perhaps, but also a grid for the cars to progress along; a direction for the jam. The verticals are present on the right of the traffic and form a wall that hems in the line of cars. This ‘structure’ is most successful at making the situation look ‘inescapable’ – they could be like the teeth of a whale that strains the sea for food! I might consider making these taller if I did this again… they might tower over the cars more.
- Horizon: There’s no horizon line in this image. But there is a special kind of perspective implied, perhaps contextually. I’ve drawn the cars flat – without showing their length into the picture and in a simplified form where they are represented just by outline, window, tyre and tail light fitting. Occasionally there’s a numberplate or handle. The impression is that gained from the original photograph of ‘stacking’ – a photography technique where depth perception is minimised and objects appear the same size even though they are at different distances away. People often use it to show themselves holding the moon in their hand, or to appear to be holding up the Tower of Pizza.
After experimenting with ink and brushes I chose to use a size 0 fine brush and just paint each brake light on as a blood splat with a white/open centre. The effect is nice but the overall impact of the red is quite small even on a black and white image.
To finish off the image I decided to ad smoke in Photoshop and bring out the lettering slightly with an almost-warm taupe colour.
I tried to integrate the lettering more into the image by allowing the smoke to flow over it a little, also darkened the smoke.
I think the smoke might benefit from more work… perhaps working in some detail in its varying density and also getting rid of the artefacts (straight edges) that have appeared due to the process that made it darker.
Overall I think the red should be the only non-neutral colour in this image. It does remind me of a grungy graphic novel. The teeth maybe could become slightly tinted.