I am choosing to examine Sergey Ponomarev’s photo for the New York Times. The caption for this photo reads: Refugees arrive in a Turkish boat near the village of Skala, on the Greek island of Lesbos. November 16, 2015. This photo won a Pulitzer Prize in 2016 in the Breaking News Photography category.
The thing itself
Much like early immigrants to the United States, the Turkish refugees in this photo are traveling by boat. Unlike pilgrims who arrived on the Mayflower, however, this boat is not large enough to handle the amount of people who are on it. This might signal the urgency of their situation-Turkish refugees needed to leave as quickly as they could by any means possible. On the other hand, the pilgrims’ departure was a choice, which gave them time to build a sturdy ship that could handle masses of people.
It is evident that this was taken using a high-quality camera, as the resolution is crystal clear. The boat serves as the focus point, whereas almost every person that is on it is facing outward, indicating their desire to leave the object on which they are standing. Even the object that the young boy on the front left side is holding is blowing outwards in the wind. Both the background colors and the colors of the subjects’ clothing blend in with one another. The silver rim of the boat stands out as the shiniest object in an otherwise dull-colored picture.
By the description, the viewer can guess that it was taken in the Mediterranean Sea close to shore. While there might have been other boats around, the photographer chose to focus on this group of refugees. I find it interesting that he is choosing to show the people, but not the land that they are approaching. It gives the effect of the unknown- this group of people does not know what awaits them, yet they are clearly charging towards it.
Since the sky is cloudy it is hard to tell the time of day, but it looks to have been taken in the late afternoon. The light grayness of the sky in contrast to the dark gray/navy of the sea provides a focal point for the subjects. They are stopped in time between leaving and arriving, and the fact that they have almost arrived is evident in their facial expressions and the direction in which the majority are facing.
The photographer’s vantage point appears to be from the island of Lesbos, from a loading dock. Ponomarev’s physical proximity to the refugees shows us that he was most likely standing on the dock, eagerly awaiting their arrival. This matters because he is in between the sea and the island- the known and the unknown. In a way, the photographer serves as a “neutral” point for the story that is about to unfold.