The Importance of Context

Looking through the book of contact sheets by Magnum photographers, as I do most weeks, there are some beautiful images. Some great compositions, subjects, moments. But it’s the context that matters most, the significance. Maybe there are a few exceptions (such as Trent Parke's images) but even then there is still a story, a project, something greater than the individual image. Why did the photographer choose to take the image? Why did they select it, keep it, show it, remember it? Why was it used?

Usually there’s weight. Gravitas. Composition can bring that, or emotion. But it's when the image is seen in it's context that brings the most strength and power to the narrative. It informs (or at least we think it does). It prompts a response. "I see, so that’s what it’s like". It may not tell the whole story, but in many ways it might complete the story, adding a rich texture in a way that only words would struggle to achieve.


Guatemala City, 2016

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Headshot, portrait, street and documentary photographer in NYC and Jersey City

alastair.arthur@gmail.com

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