Picture Analysis – The Conversation

In this exercise we are asked to consider Michael Bühler-Rose’s “The Conversation”. At first sight my reaction is that this is not a photograph I have any great liking for, but I cannot pin down why that might be and if there’s anything this course has taught me it’s to think as much about why I don’t like something as why I do. So here goes…The Conversation

There are clearly two groups of people. The nearer is engaged in listening to one of their number, whilst the other appears to be separate and disinterested, possibly even dismissive.

There is a suggestion that the individual talking is relating some story or opinion which the separate group does not agree with or like for some reason. The body language of the talker implies there is some strength of feeling in what she is saying. Possibly it is gossip or accusation?

The clothing worn by the participants in this scene is traditional Indian, but the similarities and colour combinations suggest it is possibly more Bollywood than rural Madhya Pradesh.

The surrounding scene doesn’t give many clues, but it is odd. The lighting looks artificial – it is cold and casts strange shadows. The structure looks like a mobile home and there’s something about the construction, geraniums on the window sill, even the trees, which just look wrong when thought about in an Indian context.

It’s perhaps that wrongness, that impression of staging, which gives me the initial feeling of not liking the image. I don’t generally like staged scenes and this has many clues of being staged that are almost recognised before they’ve been thought about.

It’s an interesting idea that there is an almost instant ‘like’ or ‘dislike’ about an image which can instantly draw someone in or turn someone away before they’ve even really looked properly. I think this is relatable to Roland Barthes’ concepts of Studium and Punctum, and something I will need to think about further.


8 thoughts on “Picture Analysis – The Conversation

  1. Good to see your post mike.glad to know you’re around.

    I’ve picked something up from your analysis that I missed completely. The tension between the two groups and that the woman speaking may be gossiping about the other women.

    Now I’ve read your post it’s jumping out of the photo at me.


      1. I appreciate life can get way too intense sometimes. The trips sound wonderful, and I hope that you get some time to walk around with your camera.


  2. Good analysis Mike, I am slowly working my way through part 2 but haven’t got to this image yet although I have to say it isn’t an image that particularly appeals to me either, it does seem a bit odd. Maybe I will have second thoughts when I come to the analysis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jonathan, having gone on to read a bit about the project behind the photograph I do now at least understand why it was taken and something of the thinking behind it.

      It does make me wonder if I have been under-appreciating some photography because I have been put off by the aesthetics of the images before considering what they’re about.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to say Mike that I totally agree with you, in my case I think it is a case of “seeing” something rather than just “looking” at it. I do look at images a lot more carefully now rather than just dismissing them on my initial reaction. Being educated about photography as an art rather than simply a record of a scene is something I am really enjoying about the course.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Mike, glad to see you back. I agree with you about the picture. It looks odd and inauthentic, but that challenged me – what do I really know about Indian culture? I guess that’s part of the exercise, look at the photo and also your own response.

    Liked by 1 person

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