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Gagarin monumentFamous monuments will have been photographed countless times and may have become visual clichés. Local photographers know the best viewpoints and times of the day to work, and will have used their local knowledge to produce images for guidebooks, calendars and postcards. As a starting point it is therefore worth visiting tourist offices and bookshops to get a feel for the images that have already been successful. Don’t dismiss clichéd views as a waste of time, because their status has arisen from success and overuse. Merely repeating them may seem trivial, but in practice is often much more difficult that it seems. This rather unadventurous approach at least provides you with comparable saleable images.

The significance of a monument or memorial is much more important than the edifice itself, and provides a more valuable starting point for creating a better image. It would be arrogant to suggest that this is easy, or that one’s own efforts are automatically better than those of other photographers. Nevertheless, a fresh approach is always possible and, as a minimum, personalizes the images. Take time to read about the historical background and events commemorated by the monument, and try to understand the circumstances in which who those who were involved found themselves.

Monuments honouring the dead, or sacrifice in battle, might be best portrayed in gloomy or dramatic light so that the viewer senses the circumstances that eventually led to its construction. Those celebrating the life of a famous personality, or an event worthy of celebration, might be better shown good light or a less formal manner.

It is not necessary always to include the whole of a monument in an image. Parts of a structure or statue may have more visual impact then the whole monument. Using good side-lighting and a long lens, try isolating a significant section such as a person's face or some other element with form and detail. Alternatively, try including people in the image - perhaps someone bringing flowers or studying engraved wording. Finally, look for readily understood abstractions. The image that captures the circumstances behind the monument will ultimately be the most interesting.


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