Chiaroscuro Peppers

Assignment #5 of my year-long photo challenge inspired by Henry Carroll’s Use This If You Want To Take Great Photographs is from page 117: Freeze the frame exactly 57 minutes and 32 seconds into your favorite film. Take a picture inspired by what you see.

I picked my favorite movie in a heartbeat: Amélie, or if going by its French name Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. Amélie is a wonderful romp by director Jean-Pierre Jeanet that follows the life of Amélie Poulain, a young woman spurned to do-gooder action by accidentally finding an old metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades earlier. Not only do I love Amélie for its charmingly-quirky story, but I’ve always found it visually stunning without fully verbalizing why. This assignment changed this.

The 57 minute and 32 second frame of Amélie led me here:

Screenshot 2017-03-02 21.46.55

Amélie at 57 minutes and 32 seconds


Our heroine, Amélie, is in red, just left of middle of the frame and at the tip of the prominent, short cross line. She’s in a train station after having just returned from visiting her father for the weekend and having tried to encourage him to travel more. Amélie’s father  withdrew from the social world and into his fascination with garden sculptures after the long-ago death of his wife, Amélie’s mother.

While I adore, every aspect of this story, I wanted to take Carroll’s assignment literally: Take a picture inspired by what you see. When studying this scene without considering it in the larger context of the movie’s plot, here’s what stood out: a high angle, shadows, lines, green, yellow, and pops of red. After studying this frame and going back to re-watch Amélie, I finally figured out why I loved the visuals of this movie so much. Nearly every color in the film is painstakingly coordinated into tones of green, red, and yellow. In researching how Jeanet did this, I ran into a blog by Christopher Meurer that discusses this briefly and gives a few more glorious still examples:

So there I had it. I needed to create a photograph with one or more of those elements-a high angle shot, shadows, lines, green, yellow, and pops of red. Several ideas crossed my mind. Inevitably, the weather and time boiled these down to concentrating on light, shadow, lines, and color, which brought me to Chiaroscuro Peppers:


chiaroscuro peppers, 5/26 inspired in 2017 by #UseThisPhotoBook

More about Chiaroscuro here if you’re interested:

Up March 31: Photograph a shadow, from page 23 of Use This If You Want to Take Great Photographs.



2 thoughts on “Chiaroscuro Peppers

  1. Your approach to this assignment is very analytical in nature. Quite frankly, I never would have been able to intellectualize that the facets of light, shadow, line, and color were, after all, my attraction to the film. My approach is always tied to the story itself. Superbly done, though! The colors in particular make the link unavoidable.

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