Olli Thomson

Talking Pictures – Street Kitchen

This picture was taken in Yangon, Myanmar. Like the previous picture in this series of posts it was taken from a pedestrian overpass looking downwards, though in this case I was shooting from a greater height and the people are almost directly below me so this is closer to an overhead shot. This particular overpass is at the junction of two busy roads, Anawrahta Road and Shwedagon Pagoda Road.

There was a shot to be had from ground level but it would have been much less interesting. It would also have been potentially injurious to my health since it would require standing in a busy road. There was no shot from the pavement since that would have left me looking at the backs of the people who would have been blocking the view of that food laden table. So again, the perspective from above is crucial to making this image stand out.

Despite the seemingly chaotic scene, one of the things I like about this image is the strong lines and repeating patterns. The red plastic seats form a shaky diagonal and also frame the central group. The three adults eating also form a pattern each of them hunched and holding a plate, the two men in particular almost identical in their pose. I think the higher perspective renders the posture much more interesting than it would have been with a ground level shot. Then there are all those circles. The three large circles of the main food container are framed by the three smaller food filled plates of the customers on one side and by the multiple bowls, jars and plates on the other.

The other elements of this image that appeals to me is the texture and colour of the food in the large containers. Each type of food has a different texture and colour and in my mind these conjure up different tastes and flavours. In fact, when I look at this image it makes me hungry.

The original image was wider than this and I did crop it to focus more closely on the key elements. In once version of this image I also cropped out the man on the left drinking from the water bottle, but ultimately decided it was better to leave him in since I didn’t want to narrow the focus too much or suggest that this was some kind of isolated group.

As always, this image brings to mind elements of the scene that I experienced at that time and in that moment – smells and sounds in particular and, more generally, that trip to Myanmar. This is when we often become bad judges of our own photographic work. Because the images we create always communicate more to us than they can to any one else who did not share the full sensory experience of that moment we are always vulnerable to reading those memories back into our perception of the worth of the image. But even without that personal connection I hope this picture conveys something of the urban life of Yangon.

The technical details: Fujifilm X-E2, Fujinon XF18-55 lens at 31.5mm, F5.6, 1/250, ISO640.

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