Christopher Thomond reflects on the photojournalists’ device of including a lone figure or person in shadow to bring an image to life
Eight or nine photographers, a couple of TV camera crews and a handful of journalists were standing outside a tired, nondescript building near Liverpool earlier this year as a major news story unfolded. Though this sort of scenario is far from my daily working environment, I recognised the familiar patterns of behaviour. Everyone present had taken and filed the straightforward, scene-setting shots and there was a lull as friendly rivals awaited the next development. No substantial change was expected for several hours. A lone male walked across the scene in the distance and, without a prearranged signal or a word being exchanged, all the Nikons and Canons burst into life and recorded his every footstep at 12 frames per second. As the collective motordrive clatter faded, one of the agency guys broke into a verse of Bohemian Rhapsody: “I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche…”. A muffled laugh among the group acknowledged their identical thought process. The passer-by wasn’t connected to the event being documented but, without exception, this group of award-winning press photographers recognised that an image incorporating a figure in shadow somehow improved it greatly.