Bokeh Telling A Story
I love the word “bokeh”, both because it is uniquely photographic and because it describes something very subtle and beautiful, absent in other art. One definition is “the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in out-of-focus parts of an image”. Photographers discuss the “quality” of bokeh produced by different lenses, which speaks to the personal, aesthetic response of individuals to what is a purely technical effect. Different eyes see “good” and bad” bokeh, given that the effect differs according to the manufacturer and the lens used for the photograph.
In researching this blog, I learned that the origin of the word is from the Japanese word “boke”, meaning blur, or haze. Even more interesting is the notion that the Japanese linguistic roots can also refer to mental states, such as being mentally hazy or having a poker face. Wonderful! I was amazed to learn that it only passed into photographic usage as recently as 1997. The technical characteristics are fascinating and, if you are interested, you can study these at:
I am not, in general, enamoured of pin-sharp images, which is possibly the reason that I am not much engaged with journalistic, commercial or “street photography”. All that said, this is just a very personal, professional and artistic preference. I find that bokeh elicits a strong visual response in me and enhances my appreciation of the overall impact of an image.
Which brings me to this photograph. Captured last Summer in the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, it tells a story, starting with the photographer: My father was a Polish-Jewish immigrant to France, who arrived in Paris in 1927, when he was 7 years old. Many of his family were rounded-up by the Vichy France government’s police, commencing in 1942, and dozens of them were deported to Auschwitz in 1943. Only one of them, a second cousin, came back in 1945. My father survived in hiding, like 2/3 of the rest of his family, protected – this time – by other courageous, moral, French people. He joined the Polish Division of the British army outside Paris on 31 October 1944 and was sent for training in Scotland, where I was born a few years later.
The Heart And The Eye
This tombstone is of an American Jew who died in June 1944, so that my father could come out of hiding, when the Paris insurrection rose up against the occupying German army in August. I don’t know if this soldier died on one of the beaches, or during the fierce fighting which raged for weeks afterwards among the fields and hedges of Normandy, but my heart was deeply touched to find him resting there, as I wandered through this sad, peaceful and glorious place.
With an aperture of f4, I consciously “bokéd” the surrounding crosses on the graves of the Christian dead, his comrades in arms, in order to focus on his unique significance in this place at this time. The crosses stretch out behind him to the horizon in even rows, in their thousands and tens of thousands, but the significance of him being there was my focus and my ‘out-of-focus”.
Other Jewish soldiers survived the beaches and were able to provide critical skills from their European origins to the war effort, particularly as German interpreters and also as rescuers for their own relations whom they could find and help in the aftermath of liberation. One such American came to seek out my family in Paris. Some eventually took part in the liberation of the extermination camps.
The point of the Bokeh in this image is not to diminish the significance of the other dead, but to place them in a common, supporting context behind the Jew who is the subject of my thoughts. They all died together and are honoured as one “band of brothers”.
I appreciate the opportunity, as an image-maker, to create a thought-provoking experience which tells, not one, but many stories, depending on the point of view of the viewer.
Camera: Nikon D850
Lens: Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8E FL ED VR., with Nikon AFS TC-14EII 1.4x attached = 280mm equivalent.
Vibration Reduction: Off
Drive Mode: Single Shot
Focal Length: 280mm
Focus Mode : AF-S
Auto Focus-Area Mode: Single
Shutter Speed: 1/3200s
Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
Exposure Compensation: 0.0 EV
ISO Sensitivity: 400
Supported by Monopod
Copyright Paul Grayson 2021 All Rights Reserved
Keywords: 70-200mm, Art', Beaches', , Nikon, Nikon D850, Paul Grayson, Photeinos, VR, zoom", φωτεινος
Technique et couleur impeccables. Mention spéciale pour le cadrage qui est très difficile à mon avis pour ce genre de photos. Avec un commentaire toujours très intéressant et de plus en plus personnel, j'ai l'impression. Une petite question : tout ce que tu mentionnes, le sais-tu au moment où tu prends la photo ou cela te vient après ?
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