What is a good photo?
When I was in high school, Panorama, the Sunday magazine of The Manila Bulletin came out with an issue with Imee Marcos on the cover. She was leaning on a tree, lips barely apart, unsmiling with a far-off expression on her face, looking not at the camera but past it as though she wasn’t aware that it was there. The photo, if I remember correctly, was taken by Jun de Leon. It was a sensual photo although Imee Marcos was fully clothed and was not posing suggestively. < !—more—>
I found the photo (not Imee) riveting. My mother — whose definition of a good portrait has the subject standing stiffly at the center of the frame, looking straight into the camera with face, hands and feet posed like so — called it ugly. I can still see the scene in my head, she looking at the magazine cover and saying, “Ano bang klaseng litrato yan? Que pangit! (Just what kind of photo is that? How ugly!)” How do I remember that… I’m wired that way, I guess. Some scenes are permanently etched in my mind.
If my mother were alive today and had a chance to see these two photos from an exhibit at the Negros Museum last month, I bet she’d call them ugly too. The subjects have their backs to the camera and one of them is totally off-center. I think they’re magnificent.
There is no definition of a “good photo.” A photo is only as good, or as bad, as the depth of appreciation and understanding of the person looking at it. Some people look at a photo and see an image; others see the image and beyond it — hues, textures, depth and meaning.