I always thought that if I wrote about photography I would likely be about some of Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s photographs that I cannot shake off. Instead, I am writing about the first picture that got me puzzled to the point I needed to know how. How Jacques Henri Lartigue took such a grasping photo. The photo you can see below.
Spectators on the side of the road appear angled towards the left. The rear wheel of car number 6 deformed into an ellipse with a semi-major axis leaning on the opposite direction, away from the spectators. The construct gives the frame and incredible sense of speed and urgency. Having said that, this is not what got me staring at it again and again. What keep me intrigued was how could he shoot such a photograph and get such opposing lines on moving objects forming such a surreal v.
I sketched a few theories. I read a bit more, hard task when you try to avoid the answer. I barely knew anything about taking pictures then, not that now I know any better now. Yes, panning while shooting may definitely have something to do with it. So I took my DSLR to a street corner and started taking pictures of cars driving by while panning. Frames showed the blurry background, the cars were crisply focused, but I could not reproduce the opposing angles between the background and the moving objects. Now I needed to know, there was not way I was going to give up now. Then, it hit me. Maybe his and my camera were not close relatives at all. And yes, I went and I read some more about the cameras and hardware used when Jacques was taking his pictures. Eventually, I found the missing piece. Suddenly, everything felt into place. I was so painfully obvious now.
I am not going to spoil the joy of figuring it out on your own. You should definitely do the exercise. Definitely, it is much more rewarding than getting the answer. On another note, a while back I got an awesome gift in form of a nice compact collection of Jacques’ pictures in Thames & Hudson’s Photofile series book. Worth checking it out if you can get a copy. Be careful though, some of those pictures may grab your thoughts for a while.