IMAGE TALK with Noella Ballenger: What makes that photo work…

Striking images that impress and hold a viewers attention are what we photographers are all working towards. We want our viewers to say, “WOW! I never saw it like that!” Sometimes it is the subject/s and sometimes it is the way we utilize the subject/s, but always it is the photographer’s creativity that makes the difference between “blah” and “BANG.”

In this image, I wandered away from my personal comfort zone of nature into a very controlled and well thought out image created from a portrait, a zipper and crayons. The individual items used in this image may not conjure thoughts that would astound us, but when Washington photographer Bill Black put them together in his home studio, the “Bang” was heard all the way down the Pacific Coast to Los Angeles. Come join me in learning how he constructed this incredible shot.

Jenney’s Eye
by Bill Black

Jenney's Eye: Still life photo of zipper, crayons, and eye by Bill Black
© 2011 W. E. Black. All rights reserved.

Subject: Photo portrait, crayons and zipper

Conditions: Bill tells us, “There is nothing magic about “Jenny’s Eye.” It is a very simple set up. The human portion of the photo is from a portrait print which I placed on the studio floor. Over the print I placed a zipper that I bought at a fabric store. The crayons were courtesy of WalMart.

The most tedious part of the exercise was to carefully place the crayons uniformly over the zipper and print. Two daylight balanced floods were used for the illumination and a hand held light meter was used to check the exposure.”


1. Lines, color, pattern, shape and form dominate the structure of the image.

2. The diagonal placement in the frame creates motion.

3. The circular pull on the zipper tab stops our eye from leaving the right side of the image and its round shape is an echo of the round shape of the eye’s iris and pupil.

4. The placement of Jenney’s eye with all other features blocked grabs our attention, keeps us from leaving the left side of the image and provides a strong focal point.

5. There is strong repetition of the colors, lines and shapes within the crayons and the lines and shapes of the zipper teeth.

Noella’s comments:

Bill’s image grabbed my eye immediately and it demanded a closer look. That eye peeking out from behind the opened zipper sparked my imagination and took me away from viewing just a routine still life to something much more interesting and exciting.

There is repetition of the lines, patterns, shapes and forms within the entire image which makes this photo very strong and bold. All of these elements of design are created by the crayons, the zipper and its teeth, the eye, and the overall placement of the objects within the frame. There is also repetition between the shape of the pull ornament on the zipper, the iris and pupil of the eye, as well as the implied circle derived from the arch of the eyebrow. And, the shape of the zipper opening and the shape of the eye are similar and they emphasize one another.

The diagonal of the zipper’s lines split the image into three sections which builds a solid compositional foundation, along with the diagonal movement implied by the partially opened zipper. It makes the viewer’s imagination keep closing and reopening the zipper time and time again—now you see her, now you don’t!

The colors are vibrant and matched from top to bottom and all points are toward the zipper edge which ultimately leads to the single eye of Jenney.

All of these factors contribute to the “eye-catching” impact of the image. But there is more and that is the creativity behind the concept and this is where Bill took a bold step. By using simple objects in a very interesting way, he created visual magic.

You did a really super job Bill.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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