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Confronting Contrast

by Editor Wicher Bos
Published the 7th of September 2020

Contrast: the opposition of light and dark is known as an important part of composing a successful image.
Moreover, our life is full of contrasts, much broader than just light and dark.


'Palmers' by robert semnic

Photography has a long history of documenting lifes in various ways.
Photography is able to expose and communicate situations.
By doing that documentary photography was a tool of social change.
As a result, photography was able to change the way we live and how we see things.

We all remember those iconic images about child labour and war that helped in bringing change.

Photographer Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was one of the first to document ‘Photographs Revealing New York’s Other Half’ as the New York Times put it in an article. Let me show you one of his photographs.


'Sleeping, homeless children' New York (1888-1889)

Photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) is another example, he documented London Street life around the 1860-1870’s. In 1877, journalist Adolphe Smith and John Thomson co-published a book about London's street life.


“This woman fell into abject poverty after being kicked out of her home by her son-in-law. Smith refers to her as a "crawler" because beggars literally crawled along the street begging for food and money.” (Source: LSE Digital Library)

If you look at their work, it is evident that photography can deliver strong messages, and is able to influence lifes in the long term. If you want to know more about these gentlemen, Wikipedia is a good place to start.

For me these images triggered my curiosity. 

How are these subjects represented in the portfolio today?

In order to find out I pre-selected some keywords related to the social situation.
Keywords have proven to be a very useful tool in discovering the wealth of
I felt it would be worthwhile to see both sides of reality. So, I chose contrasting words.

My opposition for today is: Rich/Wealthy/Gold/Blessing versus Poor/Poverty/Nickel/Curse.

Hope you enjoy my selection, despite some images are rather confrontational…
and please notice the echo of time…




'Poor Baby' by Paul C



'Outside a train station (Kolkata)' by Joxe Inazio Kuesta Garmendia



'Hard life but smile on their faces!' by Hamos Gyozo



'Can you wear my shoes?' by nafets norim



'coffee break' by Andrei Nicolas - The Traveler



'During "The Troubles”’ by Jonathan Eden-Drummond



'girl with charcoal' by Tomasz Solinski



'Noodles-4' by Joxe Inazio Kuesta Garmendia



'Not Easy' by Pavol Delej



'Cursed tree (Fairytales)' by Alexandru Crisan


The opposite Keywords are: RICH / WEALTHY / GOLD / BLESSING


'The Miser Molier' by DdiArte



'Gold' by Sergey Parishkov



'The era of the collapse' by Sergei Smirnov



'Mysterious Orient' by kenp



'African Queen' by Maurice de Vries



'Goldfingers' by Edith Hoffman



'The Chocolate Princess' by Christophe Kiciak



'Greed' by Christophe Kiciak



'dream my dear' by txules


I want to end with an image that I didn’t expect to find, however it actually gives a great message.
‘Rich’ can be humble too… Just peacefully reading a nice book…and counting your blessings…


'The Reader' by richardgouw


Please feel free to browse using these keywords and make discoveries yourself. One last observation on my part. I was amazed to notice how few images there are with keywords like ‘rich’, ‘wealth’ and ‘blessings’, and even then, often with a critical tone to it.

I wonder why? Is it the surviving impact of all those iconic 19th century examples? Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the journey…



The book “London Street Live” can be seen and downloaded here. 

I feel really honoured that one of my photos was selected as a part of this study. The contrasts are really (painfully) clear indeed. Makes one think... and that's your message exactly, I guess. Thank you for sharing this point of view. Never expected to be part of this kind of result set. Best regards, Richard
Loved going through the article and the images you have selected. The visuals trigger thoughts and move us as does the language of documentary photography. Very well composed and presented.
Thank you Souvik!