Picture of the Year

The Pictures of the Year exhibit at the Newseum showcased plenty of breath-taking photos. At first, I thought it might be difficult to choose just one photo to focus on, but then one really did catch my eye.

I think this photo from protests in Bangkok, Thailand grabbed my attention due to its unique composition. The photograph emphasizes the burning truck and the man actively throwing a tire through a reflection on the ground. The muddy water on the road provided a surprisingly crisp and clear reflection that provides nearly perfect symmetry to the image. The reflection is darker than the actual scene, making it seem like an alternative reality that emphasizes the dark and foreboding scene of a city turned upside down by discontent.

What also strikes me is the extraordinary color in the photo. By and large, the photograph has an almost monochromatic feel to it. Most of the picture is veiled in billowing brown smoke. The visible parts of the sky are not blue, but also a brown color that brings images of armageddon to mind. The parts of the image that are not dark brown are right in the foreground: the bright yellow and orange flames of the burning truck and the bright lime green t-shirt of the protester. The contrast of the colors at the focal point of the image add to the photo’s ability to draw the eye in.

The emphasis in this gallery was on photojournalism, photographs that can document a scene and tell a story in one frame. I think this photograph presents something of a dichotomy: the photograph seems somewhat surreal, but still transmits the feeling of that scene on the streets of Bangkok. It’s not a photograph of a protest on a blue sunny day. Every part of the photo lends itself to the dire situation that existed in Thailand during the protests and anti-government demonstrations.

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