How to Photograph a Chair in a Corridor. Perhaps one near an elevator.
From time to time people send me photographs of unnecessary hotel clientele relaxation options, or, if you prefer, utterly pointless chairs and tables artfully abandoned in hotels around the world. Some of these are great. Some of them... er... aren't. The thing that sets them apart is...
...context. That, and not being rubbish.
What do I mean? Here. Look at this...
Apart from the fact that whoever did this almost certainly talks to people that only they can see, the problem with this picture is that we don't have any frame of reference.
Yes it's wrong, but without a wider shot showing us the full scope of its hideous inconguity it just looks like the set of Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf put on by the most underfunded theatre company in the poorest part of the most deprived town in Bulgaria. Immediately after they lost all of their stage furniture in a hurricane.
In a similar vein is this. Ignore for a moment the Kafka-esque horror of sitting with a loved one in those two chairs staring into a corner, waiting, waiting, waiting for a minor official who will never come. Forget the table that got bored with being a table and tried to evolve into a chair. Stop looking at the dead pot plant in the attention-grabbing pot that you can't tear your eyes away from. STOP LOOKING AT IT I SAID!
Instead imagine the sad look in my eyes when you know that someone has sent you this picture all the way from Abu Dhabi and neglected to stand far enough back to include the souless wasteland that the hotel proprietor has tried to make more homely with this abomination.
If you pick up the telephone it puts you straight through to the Dignitas Assisted Suicide Clinic in Switzerland. Even if you weren't planning to end your life beforehand, you will once you have paused to comtemplate this depiction of the emptiness of the human spirit conveyed eloquently by a generic out-of-focus black and white photograph placed above a cabinet that holds the souls of 250 convicted and executed mass murderers.
If only I could see a door, or a fire extinguisher or the stairs I could convince myself that this wasn't a page torn out of an IKEA catalogue.
So, in conclusion, if you are going to send me a photograph make sure you capture the full scope of the environment that your holelier of choice has tried to improve with a casually dumped armchair.
Take your time. Generally cleaners or junior staff won't call the police or the manager until you have been loitering with your cameraphone for over twenty minutes. Give plenty of thought to composition, lighting and angle. Make the viewer pause for a moment amidst the hurly-burly of their life and imagine what it would be like to place their buttocks in such a seat - in defiance of all societal norms, conventions or petty thoughts of practicality.
And when you have finished find somewhere convenient to sit down and relax. If you can find anywhere suitable that is...