Tan Huixin - Curation

Alone in a crowded place by Yasir

Photography hobbyist Yasir captures the essence of being alone in an Abu Dhabi crowd.

For the project, my group intends to explore the insidious barrier that is modern architecture or design that is driving us away from each other, and building into a less open, more anti-social society.

In order to do so, we would need to be able to clearly portray this isolation in, most likely, crowded public areas. Having one subject stand out amongst many could be a challenge, and I feel this photo has qualities we can emulate to achieve that end.

Applying the Gestalt theories of similarity and proximity, Yasir brings out the concept of ‘alone’ by having the girl be the only person not blurred out, making her dissimilar to the other subjects of the photo.

Furthermore, visual cues like interposition, and size (the blurred people in the background are slightly smaller than the young girl) tell us also that the other subjects are the background, in almost a separate realm from the girl.

Another interesting thing to note is the facelessness of the crowd, a theme I encountered often while researching. Other photos had everyone walking away from the camera while only the subject faced front, but the effect was the same; they looked all alone, the only human beings among the dehumanised group.

Photo of an army veteran by Stuart Griffiths

The Veteran by Stuart Griffiths shows a rather different, but just as effective, portrayal of isolation.

Rather than visual cues or Gestalt’s theory, this photo contains more of symbols and codes that bring out the isolation of the veteran.

The Veteran is photographed alone, from a dark corridor, creating a lot of dark, empty spaces in the photograph amidst which he sits.

Upon seeing the photograph, the first thing that stuck me was how his room reminded me of a prison cell, which could be considered an iconic sign. The symbolism behind this, however, I feel is in the potential displaced code; just as being in a prison, which the room resembles, cuts you off from the rest of the world, being a war veteran isolates you.

This is further brought on by the fact that the veteran looks to the light source, which we, by a sort of continuity or logic, can assume to be a window looking out to the outside world. Just as a prisoner yearns to be free, the veteran too, longs to be part of normality.

Bringing this back to our project, this photo made me think of how our rooms act now as a barrier that separates us from our families. As communal spaces get smaller and our private rooms get increasingly private, we slowly, unwittingly build ourselves a prison disguised as ‘privacy’.