The seen and the unseen

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When one looks at a photograph, one immediately scans its contents to create meaning. Some people take the information at face value: Yes, it's a photo of a scooter parked by a fountain in front of an old building in Majorca, Spain. Others look more closely, seeking clues to deeper meaning. The shutters upstairs are closed, but the front door is open; the scooter has only one helmet, but another scooter is beside it. A mural of a priest is between the upstairs windows. Put these elements together, and one can conjure several versions of "the story" of this photo.

To me, this is the power of the photographer and the beauty of photography. Photographers compose and capture scenes from a performance unfolding continuously before their eyes. They create narratives by what they choose to include - or exclude - from an image. The resulting photograph is as much about what is left in, as it is about what has been left out.

I composed and captured this image earlier this year. I was very taken by the old scooter, the bronze rooster atop the fountain, and the mural on the balcony. I was not so interested in a few other things - the (unseen here) new car parked to the right of the scooters, for instance. That would have made the photo more contemporary and spoiled the Old World "look" I sought.

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Mr. Sosa is the Monitor's features photo editor. He joined the staff in 1997.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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