The Piano Player by Coos Hamburger was selected as the Editor’s Choice for the People chapter of the ‘Leica User Forum Book’

As the person responsible for this section of the book I knew that I was going to have to choose one photograph that would represent, for me at least, the best of what had been submitted. I did not anticipate this being an easy task, and, since I was also the person to whom all of the submitted photographs were sent, each day that passed seemed to make the task even more difficult as superb photograph after superb photograph dropped into my email inbox. Then something strange happened. This photograph appeared and I realised immediately that the task was no longer difficult, but easy. I had found the benchmark that all the other photographs would have to try to better. In the end none of them did. So what did I find so special about this particular photograph?

As I general rule I do not place photographs of children at the top of my list of favourite subjects. Often they have great meaning for people who know the child, but to a somewhat disinterested stranger they can often appear banal or “cute”. This photograph however does not fall into either of those traps. Take the child’s expression for example. It appears to be the face of someone who is trying to do something at the very edge of her abilities, namely to play the piano as well as she can. Her expression seems to show that she is trying to please, and that she wants to be seen to be playing well. All these emotions have given her face an anxious appearance. She is looking upwards, presumably towards an adult, her left hand delicately playing the piano keys, and she has a pleading look in her eyes, that offers an insight into her thoughts and her concerns.

Compositionally the right arm leads the viewer into the photograph and towards the child’s face. If places all the visual and emotional impact of the photograph in one place, the place that truly matters. That for me is what makes it not just a good photograph, but to use a much over used phrase, a great photograph. There were many, many other photographs of an amazingly high standard, but this is the one that has been my favourite from the moment I first opened the email attachment. I can only salute Coos Hamburger for taking it and then deciding to submit it to us.

– Steve Unsworth, Editor, People

This post is part of the special ‘Leica for AICR’ series. To purchase the book, please click here. Proceeds benefit the UK-based Association for International Cancer Research (AICR). Please visit our page on Facebook to enter the ‘Leica for AICR’ photo contest; this week’s theme is People.

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