Shadow Play

For all of their associations with the scary and sinister, shadows also invite us to play. Children delight in the mimickry and distortions of their shadows. Cats and dogs sometimes paw at them. And photographers love them, or will learn to.

The graphic interest of shadows can strengthen an image’s subject, or become the entire subject. Luckily or intentionally placed, a shadow can be a natural, heightening vignette. If the person or thing casting the shadow is unseen, or only partially seen, our involvement with the image deepens just a bit as we conjure up that real person or thing; I think of this as extending the frame with the imagination. Finally, if you favor postmodernism in your images, shadows can be used to misdirect, undercut, interrogate, or overwhelm the expected “subject.” (Hey, it’s postmodernism — I had to put those quotes around the word.)

I love playing with shadows. And play I must, at times — it can be a real cat-and-mouse game as the sun slips in and out of fog here in the western parts of San Francisco. You’ll find eleven of my own titled, shadowy images in the slideshow below. As always, you can click on any tiled image to see it larger and enter the slideshow.

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