Why taking photos of people with things growing out of their heads can be a beautiful thing (or at least make an interesting picture)
Sometime in the 1970s, my parents took my brothers and me to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It was my first and only trip there. Even though I was a very self-conscious teenager and terrified of being seen in public with my parents, I was enamoured and mesmerized by the strange, utopian setting that Disney World is famous for.
My father was a keen photographer. So he always supplied us some kind of point-and-shoot film camera to play with on our family vacations. One of the first things I remember seeing at the ‘happiest place on earth’ (after the long queue to get into) was a sign similar to this.
These picture spots also came with photography tips such as ‘Be sure there are no lampposts or telephone poles protruding out from the person’s head when taking the picture’. I wish I never read that. I think it totally killed my photographic creativity for about twenty years. Just imagine how boring photography would be if all the rules were followed all the time.
This photo essay is my attempt to make up for those lost years by showing that interesting things can happen when ignoring that picture spot tip.
The photo above was an accident. I was concentrating on chasing the harsh light in this scene. The Balinese lady walked into the frame. I decided to click the shutter because she made a nice subject. I took several frames. There were a couple pictures of her just before and after the mini offering altar in the tree. I liked this one the best.
This ‘gorilla’ photo was a semi-planned shot. I was navigating through one of the many underground malls in Singapore. I noticed this display on my way to a meeting. I didn’t want to be late for the meeting, and I don’t like being rushed to take a photograph, so I didn’t think twice of taking a shot here. It just so happened that I went back the same way after my meeting. The timing was better because it wasn’t rush hour anymore. There was hardly anyone around. I took out my camera. I adjusted the settings for indoors (I like to shoot manual a lot). I was manually focusing when the lady subject showed up. I snapped. I admit, I was pretty stoked to get this.
I planned this portrait of my wife so that the plant was directly above the crown of her head. No, she doesn’t really appreciate this kind of photography. But if you do, I highly recommend checking out one of the masters of the ironic, absurd, and banal — Magnum photographer, Elliott Erwitt.
L.A.-based photographer, Roman Koval, shows how stunning a portrait can be, using a well placed protruding feature behind someone’s head.
View Roman’s online portfolio here.
Note: the lead photo was semi-planned, and taken during a birthday party in Paro, Bhutan in 2014. Balloons are popular props in this quirky genre of photography.