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Photography Cropping Rules in Black Lives Matter Photos

Looking can be dangerous and photography cropping rules make certain images bias against the Black Lives Matter movement.

Napoleon was an exterminator. He was a butcher and an assassin. He sounds sort of like a modern day police officer. In 1808 an atrocious crusade was lead through Spain by Napoleon killing innocent people for their country of origin and their religion. This was in the 19th century and, in the 21st, Black people face unacceptable and similar killings by the hands of cops and discrimination from many others.

photography cropping rules

In 1814 the famous painter Francisco Goya used his skills as an artist to capture this frightening moment of the Spanish Inquisition on a mere two-dimensional surface with only paint and composition. Again in the 2000’s Scott Olson captures moments of riot and turmoil surrounding the Black Lives Matter conflicts. In the photograph from Scott Olson we can see a similar story being told to the one painted so long ago. The fiery glow of yellow is the same. The swatches of blood red are the same. And of course the pose and posture of the man on his knees is identical. But the photograph is missing something. There are no soldiers with bayonets ready to kill… Are there photography cropping rules at work here? It is clear how these images are both outstanding visual culture examples.

One must tread carefully around powerful images. Images with strong content and forceful meaning can influence people’s opinions in unexpected ways. Many of these strong, sometimes even dangerous images can be seen today. The many artistic images of the Black Lives Matters riots have been some of the most powerful of their time. They are as revolutionary as the fine artworks of the 19th century in France and Spain, they are as striking as the paintings of Modern Art, they tell similar stories as civil rights photography, and are as expressive as Contemporary Art. Some photographers and images may curb and interfere with the noble efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement. But many are powerful examples of photography cropping rules that have been practiced by masters for centuries and mean well. Cropping is a powerful technique that has transformed some of these images into, not only a journalistic description but a kick in the teeth to picketers and racists. These images can affect the viewer in often undesirable ways depending on who they are. Interestingly, these photographs can be manipulated to jar both parties on either side of the Black Lives Matter narrative. It is the techniques these photographs utilize that change who the messages are pointed at. Photography cropping rules have a powerful impact on the meaning of images and can both hinder and help the struggles of the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Many photography cropping rules can be seen in the following Black Lives Matter images as seen in the article, “Behind the Best Pictures From Ferguson, With Getty Photographer Scott Olson.”

This example shows how images can be cropped to change its meaning and even hinder a political movement. Cropping negotiates the dominant hegemony into an oppositional one. Here it appears that the Blacks are in charge. They seem to be winning against a completely nonexistent army. A man cropped almost in the center of the frame is winding up a fiery shotput. He appears as if he’s about to throw a molitav cocktail at his enemy. And gracefully men frolic and stroll around him. It is almost as if the others have not a care in the world. But a cultured person or a person up-to-date on the news understands the gravity of this image. Most understand how powerful this image is. And, of course, photography cropping rules are changing the negotiated hegemony of and portrayal of events in this image.

Those who know what really happened can see the dangers of this image clearly. People understand that the Blacks aren’t “in charge” or winning. This is because powerful photography cropping tools are being utilized to block the viewer from seeing certain things. The police are completely invisible in this image. It’s a five on zero soccer match. By simply seeing one group outnumbered by the other gives viewers a sense of whose life is at stake here. This is done using photography cropping rules. And this is what gives the image its power to make it appear that the Blacks are winning through mere numbers.

But, this example of photography cropping rules is probably one of the strongest, one of the most powerful, and more accurate. Even decades after Nazi’s were gasing Jewish lives, here are a band of soldiers wearing gas masks ready for battle. They hold poised firearms in their muscular arms in front of their kevlar vests. This is a site no man or women would want to be on the opposing end of. Yet here is a figure everyone recognizes. Here is Jesus, but more frightened. A Black woman stands as if she were hanging from the cross, only her hands are reaching for the sky. No doubt she was under the instruction of the encroaching mob before her. One can almost hear, “Put your hands up!” But the most brilliant element of this image is the way it is cropped. The image is cut shortly after the young Black person but includes many more of the soldiers. The cropping of this image is what makes it a powerful one.

Intentional cropping is what makes this image so powerful and a great example of photography cropping rules. Here before the viewer is at least eight men raging after one person of color. Cropping, however, can conceal the fact that there may have been more on either side. There may have been more soldiers in protective armor on one side. And there may have been more unprepared or otherwise unprotected bystanders on the other side. These variables would change the very powerful messages behind the image. If there were more soldiers it may make the person in the foreground seem even more at risk and if there were more civilians it may make it seem more like there was a reason for the police to be involved. This example of photography cropping rules shows the power of the image and the artist. This shows the power of cropping in an image.

However, no amount of photography cropping rules can conceal weapons, rage, or race. Photography cropping rules, in this case, are showing a much more accurate depiction of what actually happened. It also shows the importance of the issue Americans are still facing today. This image of racism is real and cannot be cropped and cut away at.

A Closing Note on Photography Cropping Rules

An artist has more than enough power to do good or even evil. Viewers are always at risk as they glance at the products of photographers and painters. Photography cropping rules are just a few tricks they know. Photographers like Scott Olson usually show the admirable fight of the Blacks, but many may be trying to crop an image to make it look like the Blacks were rioting for no reason against the police. It was and still is an rather unfair fight with the Blacks still being oppressed. People absorbing the images they see must also check it against what they already know. How many armed guards were there? What were the people fighting for? Images are tricky. They are powerful. And because of photography cropping rules, they can take on various and powerful meanings. Look carefully.


  • Coscarellie, Joe. “Behind the Best Pictures From Ferguson, With Getty Photographer Scott Olson.” New York,  20 Aug. 2014, nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2014/08/behind-the-best-pictures-from-ferguson.html. Accessed 9 Dec. 2017.

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Topher is the proud creator and editor of Culture Hog.


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