Olli Thomson

Talking Pictures – Pink Trousers

I asked a few people to take a look at my newly redesigned website and tell me what they thought of it. One person said that he would like to know more about the pictures. He wasn’t looking for technical details – what camera, what lens, what settings – but for stories about the pictures. Where were they taken? What was it that caught my eye?

I prefer to let the pictures speak for themselves, even if what the viewer ‘hears’ is silence, or a story very different to the one I would write. I also prefer a very clean minimalist look on my site so I don’t like unnecessary – in my eyes – information or graphics.

Nonetheless, I thought it was a reasonable suggestion, recognising that some people do like to know a little more. So I decided that, rather than add text to the galleries, I would do a series of blog posts on particular images telling the story, insofar as there is one, behind those pictures.

Where to start? I decided to begin with the images on my home page and here is the first one.

This picture was taken in Manila in the Philippines. The vehicle is known as a Jeepney, Manila’s primary form of public transport. These were originally stretched versions of the US military Jeeps, though today they are purpose built.

I took a lot of pictures of Jeepneys but this is my favourite. The two elements that set is apart for me are the angle from which I shot it and the woman in the passenger seat. I took this from a pedestrian overpass that crosses EDSA, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Manila’s longest and busiest road. Specifically, this is at the junction of FB Harrison Street and EDSA. I often spent time hanging around on this overpass looking for pictures since it provided a great viewpoint and enabled me to get above the intensity of the streets and pavements in this neighbourhood.

The woman, for me, encapsulates something of Manila and the people of Manila – cheerful and colourful. Her pink trousers combine nicely with the aqua blue of the Jeepney’s roof and are a bright slash of colour against the metallic grey of the bodywork. She’s smiling, I don’t know why, but it’s not unusual. Filipinos smile more often and more readily than western people, even though many of them have far tougher lives than many of us can even imagine.

Jeepneys are often brightly decorated and painted. Sports stars, fighter planes, superheroes and more appear on the bodywork. Religious imagery is very common – pictures of Jesus, Christian saints, Mary. Often, there are verses from the Bible. The Philippines is a strongly Roman Catholic country and public displays of religious belief and devotion are the norm. This Jeepney is no exception and just behind the door is an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic devotional image.

I thought the tight crop worked well here. I have a tendency to step back or zoom out to include the whole of an object in the frame, even though I know that sometimes it’s better to get closer. Often I end up compensating by cropping later when I’m processing the image, though in this case the I did zoom in at the time. (I should note that all the images I’ll be discussing in this series appear on my home page in cropped format, specifically 2.35:1, though in the actual galleries they appear in normal 3:2 format.)

As for the technical details: Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF18-55 lens at 55mm, F8, 1/250, ISO400.

Comments (1):

  1. Marcus Peddle

    21 November, 2018 at 11:13 pm

    I am often torn between explaining a photo in detail and just leaving it with no explanation at all. A photo should tell its own story, as you say. As a result, I think I often write a half-explanation that satisfies no one. Especially not myself.
    Those pink pants and blue bum bag are something else, but you can’t make fun of a person with such a great smile. I’m sure she has something to teach me.


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