A few weeks ago we asked our followers on our Facebook page and Twitter to take a look at the following photograph and tell us what emotions it brought about and what they thought was the story behind it.

We received a lot of varied responses ranging from “it reminds me of my sanctuary” and “peaceful/tranquility” to “We’re slowly rowing our lives off the edge of this planet unless there is an intervention and we change our destructive ways”. The great thing about art is it can be interpreted in many ways and none of the opinions are wrong. An image can say many different things to many people.

There are quite a few things to notice that help us analyze a photograph. Have a look at the shapes in the photograph and the lines. There is a big dark area at the top, which could signify the unknown or the edge. I take it to mean the fisherman has blocked out the outside world or his day-to-day life. The line of the boat is parallel to the strong line separating the dark area from the water and he’s looking in the direction of the darkness perhaps because even though he is trying to block out the world, he still has one eye on it/still thinking about it, but he’s keeping it at a safe distance from him, not getting closer or further away.

Take a look at the lighting, where is it coming from? In this case, it’s clearly coming from the left of the frame. The fisherman’s back is lit, but his front is shroud in darkness. You can’t see who the person is nor can you see the gender. It could be male/female, you, me or someone you know. This person signifies any man (or woman), all of us.

The reflection in the water can also have meaning. In this case, you can’t really see the reflection of the fishing rod, so if you block out the fisherman with your hand and just look at the reflection, it looks like he’s sitting at a desk, perhaps his boring day job that he’s come to get away from. He can’t leave it far behind though, it always stays with him.

The water is calm, there’s no colour (except black/white) noise, no noticeable movement blur, no other objects, people in the frame, which gives the whole image an air of peacefulness and calmness.

These are just some of the ways to read a photograph, other things to take into consideration are the composition, where is the subject placed in the frame? What is the main subject? For me, it was the fisherman, but someone else may look at the dark space above as the main subject. What does the negative space (empty area around the subject) signify? What role do colour, contrast and texture play?

I believe photographs should tell a story, either on its own or in a series. Hopefully this helps get you started into looking at photographs in a different light and lets you find your story!

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