Just above my computer screen is a cork board with various postcards, pictures and notes pinned to it. Among them are two of my favourite photos by Don McCullin.
The first is of a woman pushing a pram in front of a heavy industry setting. The other is of four people sat in deckchairs on a promenade overlooking the seafront.
If I turn my back I have a poster image of Hyères, a photo taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson of a cyclist speeding out of frame.
I ask myself why I like these images and it’s because they have layers. Three to be precise.
In the image above we see a woman pushing a pram in the foreground, with what looks like some coal heaps in the mid-ground and a building with two tall chimneys in the background. Three distinct layers that together create the image.
The same is true for the people sat in the deckchairs – they are the foreground, the beach behind them is mid-ground and the hotel complex shapes the background.
And even Cartier-Bresson’s image has three layers. The stairway, the cyclist and the curb stones that create the curve in the background.
With street photography people are often encouraged to photograph what’s in front of them, and they don’t lift their eyes and see the background. Unsurprisingly then, a number of potentially very good street photography shots are ruined because the photographer (and I include myself) has forgotten about the layers.