Notes on Photography: Cropping as Selection

The photographs we see are the final, finished versions of the original images. Cropping is often one of the choices photographers make as to how they want their final versions to look. It involves selecting what to be retained and what to be removed, and the margin is usually what is affected because the focus is usually at or toward the center.

For example, early this year (2016), I took a shot of five children. One was ill and the other four sat around him, attending to him, the way children do. When the father of the ill child requested me to photograph the children, and when they saw my instinctively willing reaction, two of the children (who were already close to their il friend) got closer and held and touched him lovingly, while another child remained where he had been. When I was actually ready and about to aim the camera to the children, the fourth child got to his feet and stepped away at a distance he thought safe from the field of vision of my camera. The following is the resultant shot.

Friends (BW)

The boy sitting aloof adds some tension to the scene. He knows them being photographed and his being part of the group, but he does not show his face. At the same time he does not run away like the other child did. He remains part of the group, being fully conscious of being photographed and still not getting involved in it. That is a rare combination of defiance and vulnerability. So, in one version of the photograph, I keep him there. He adds a beautiful tension to the scene.

Looking tighter, in a closer frame, I love how the three children relate and how they show their emotions for one another, and how they just live their innocent childhood. So I cropped the photograph for these three children. The following is the result:

Friends (BW2)

There is a closeness of feeling in this cropped version. Some warmth of friendship in that cold winter afternoon in the slum.

I experimented with cropping the photograph in such a way that the hands of the child on the margin remain within the frame while his body is removed. This gives another result:

Friends (BW3)

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