More than looking

Fading Away – by Henry Peach Robinson

For this activity we had to analyse a range of photos, all by different photographers. I chose this one by Henry Peach Robinson. We then had to answer the following questions –


What is your first impression of this image i.e. your gut feeling or reaction?

My first initial reaction when I saw this photo was sorrow. I thought this because the picture is expressing a lot of emotion and you can see that the subject is not very well and very ill. You can read the room and see the sorrow  of her loved ones, she’s not dead yet but fading away.

What senses can you draw on to understand this image, do smell, touch, sound, taste, sound or vision feature somehow in the image?

In this photo I can see sadness and worry around the room. The man at the window though you cannot see his face, you can see that he is depressed as he looks out of his window down at the streets below. You can feel the soft fabric of the pillow keeping the girl comfortable, taste the tears upon her loved ones faces and the sound of silence…

What might have happened before the or after this picture was taken?

I think that this photo was taken for a girl who is dying and afterwards I think she passed away and the man jumped from his window.

What fundamental components is the photographer drawing on e.g. line, shape, form, shadow, movement etc?

The way the photographer has set up the scene for this picture is perfectly centred in the middle of the room, with the girl centred and her family loved ones around her. You can sense the emotion in the room but its quite subtle. I like the contrast of the dark materials then the opposing contrast from the bright white clothing. The darkness in the majority of the photo is depressing  and has a deathly tone to it but the bright white symbolises hope.

What is the photographers intention?

I think that the photographers intentions was to capture the emotions of the room during this emotional and distressing time.

Describe what is happening in this photograph, what is says about the subject/content, and if you think the photographer was successful?

This is the photo of the dying girl, the subject even though there are multiple people in the room is the girl dressed in white, exhausted and drained. The man in the background looks to be very depressed as he stares out of the window, he is silhouetted and not the primary focus of this image but the way he is standing shows that he is an important figure. The man looks to be her father as she looks too young to be his lover. This is the photo of a family trying there  best to deal with a difficult situation, the situation being the girl is very ill and by the looks and emotions in the room, it looks like it’s too late for her.

I think that the photographer was trying to capture the emotion in the room. You can tell that he is not a relative but someone who is documenting this experience, it’s like he’s not there as no one has acknowledges his presents, he is unseen but e is the elephant in the room. The difference between the two contrasts (white and black) is crucial, as this this further explains the situation. The majority of this photo is black which is indicates depression and death but the opposing white indicates some hope and light. Maybe there is hope yet…

I’m aware that black and white film was none optional to people at this time but after seeing the feeling of the room and the emotions within it. I think that this harsh dark on bright light really adds some intent into this photo and brings it together.

Conclusion –

I think that this is beautifully dark and emotional photo with a hint of mystery about it. We know that the girl is dying but how or of what? A photo can only tell us so much. It’s up to the viewer to analyse the the photo and create a narrative to whats going on.


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