Making of 40 Photographs #17

This is #17 in my series ‘Making of 40 Photographs’. An alternative view is often all that's required.

How often do you observe, study even, the location or the subject you want to photograph? I feel it's all about 'understanding' the subject and I find that when I'm drawn to someone or something I want to photograph - time seems to slow down, and the location empties of everything else except my subject. I feel I'm involved in a one-to-one exchange. And in order for the exchange to work well (the photograph), I've got to get to know my subject well.

I'm not talking about getting to know the monk in the picture - such as his name or anything like that, I'm talking about understanding the space he's situated in. Learning what will work from a compositional point of view.

I don't just assume that the first composition I see is the one that works. As you can see here, I've got two shots that I want to share with you. Both I feel work, but perhaps the first one is the most intimate while the second one shows a little more context - there's a monk praying in the distance which gives the shot a little more meaning. But for me I guess, it's the first shot that works the most. I love how I can see his eyes are shut and he's very concentrated on his praying. It's just him and the tree, and if I were bold, I'd say I'm involved too.

I shot these on a Contax 645 film camera using Kodak's Portra 160NC on a standard lens. I favour standard lenses because of their intimacy.... if they're too far away, it's because I'm not close enough. I do have a 140mm lens - the equivalent of a 70mm lens in 35mm terms, but I find I don't use it.