Category Archives: Knockin' on Heaven's Door

A collection of posts influenced by the power of beauty and culture.

The Odessa Steps Sequence

The clip above is not only the most famous scene in The Battleship Potempkin, but it also sufficiently exemplifies the entire Soviet montage genre.  The Odessa Steps sequence perfectly embodies the main concepts of the genre, as it is known for its severe cuts and editing techniques.  As the chaos at Odessa Steps is emphasized by the dramatic editing that cuts from one shot to another quickly and without transitions (in order to evoke a particular response from the audience), the scene represents the editing of the Soviet montage genre.  Below is a shot breakdown of a series of shots in the middle of the scene.


1. ECU…1 second…Static…Extreme close-up of a civilian’s face (person has wide eyes and looks very scared).

2. CU-ECU…2 seconds…Static (but subject moves toward the camera, filling the screen)… Civilian from previous shot walks toward the camera with his hands on his head, looking both distraught and disheveled.

3. WS…4 seconds…Static…Civilians are running down the Odessa Steps, looking frightened and freaking out.  Random people are shot by the Tsar’s men and fall down.

4. MS… 0.5 second…Static…Shot lasts for the blink of an eye as the editing of the Soviet Montage genre is showcased.  Shows women going up stairs.

5. MS… 5 seconds… Static…Women are running up the stairs in distress, but then turn around suddenly and start running back down.  An elderly woman paces herself going down the stairs.

6. MS… 1 second… Static, high angle shot… Man is shown covered with blood as he dies on the steps.

7. WS… 2 seconds… Static… The elderly woman is walking down the stairs again, as everyone around her runs.

8. EWS… 4 seconds… Static… Civilians are running down the steps and jumping over the dead bodies that are strewn across the stairs.

9. MWS… 4 seconds… Static… Woman carries a dead child in her arms as she walks up the stairs slowly, then turns around to face the camera.

10. EWS… 5 seconds… Static… Civilians are running down the steps as even more dead bodies are in their way.

11. WS… 2 seconds… Static… Civilians are hiding against a wall, one begins to stand up.

12.  MS… 1 second… Static… Clip shows the same civilian from the previous shot standing up again.

13.  CU…1.5 seconds…Static… The civilian adjusts her headpiece and yells something.

14.  MWS… 3 seconds… Static… Man carries an injured boy in his arms as he walks up the steps.  The boy’s limbs dangle awkwardly.

15.  MS… 3 seconds… Static… The woman with the headpiece waves her arms forward as she says something again.

Although the shots alternate in their type, the movement stays static throughout the scene, cutting from one static shot to the next.  As the subjects are depicted in their moments of distress, the quick change of shots reflects this to make the audience afraid for the civilians.


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Smithsonian Annual Photo Contest

I was genuinely impressed by the collection of photos chosen for the Smithsonian annual photo contest at the Smithsonian Castle.  I found it inspiring that many of the photos were taken by amateurs; while many people would not be capable of producing that caliber of work, the photos sent by the amateurs were each intriguing in their own way.  I could tell that the people in charge of selecting the pictures to include in the exhibit must have had a difficult time, because each had an interesting composition… many even had beautiful stories to coincide with the photo.

A Ride at the Virginia State Fair

Although my favorite photograph was different than the one I included in the post, I also enjoyed this one by Gordon Stillman of Richmond, Virginia.  I could only find the photo winners in various categories online, and this winner of the “Americana” section was my favorite of the  six winners.  I think the most interesting aspect of this photograph is that the composition is so busy; it doesn’t quite align with the rule of thirds.  Instead, the column of the ride centers the photograph and the people surrounding it provide an element of chaos, as the blurred background emphasizes the motion of the individuals around the column.

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Extra Credit

Emily Kline and I attended the seminar “Telling stories through pictures: How news media builds on tradition” for extra credit.  Although I expected the seminar to be informative, but very dry, it was actually interesting.  The first speaker was Bill Douthitt, who is National Geographic Magazine’s managing editor for special editions.  He spokes to us about creating a narrative through pictures.  Some of his tips:

  • The steps to creating a narrative: conceptualizing, organizing, and editing.
  • It’s important to make judgement on instinct.
  • Choose a subject you’re familiar with.  Then images will be easier to acquire.
  • If you’re creating a project for profit, make sure the subject is engaging and marketable.
  • The key aspect of editing is juxtaposing the language of words with the language of images.

The second speaker was Megan Rossman, a specialist in new media who works for The Washington Post.  She was  a finalist for a pulitzer prize, and really knows how to format videos to tell a story.  She spoke to us about developing many of her stories, and stressed the importance of choosing a story first, then deciding if it should be represented in print or video (not deciding you want to do a print or video piece, and then choosing a subject).  Some advice Rossman gave:

  • A successful audio slideshow has natural sound and interviews with strong “feeling quotes.”
  • Interviewing for an audio or video piece is completely different than for a print story.  For instance, while background information is important for clarification, it’s not as powerful for viewers as it may be in a print story.
  • If you’re creating a video, you should use natural sound to break up an interview.  Layer the sound by bringing in the natural sound underneath the interview.
  • When your subject starts talking, you should show them so viewers know who is speaking.

Here is a video created by Rossmann for

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Richard Avedon

I chose to review Richard Avedon’s work because it presents fashion and beauty as a preeminent aspect of pop culture; while his photos may not always showcase prevalent models and fashion designers, he created a way to showcase the fashion beautifully.  In each of the photos that I included, the clothing is clearly the most engaging aspect of the photograph.  Consequently, even when the subject of the photo is Marilyn Monroe, the viewer’s eye is drawn to her dress.  While her face looks charming and pretty, and a viewer can tell that she is wearing the dress (and not vice versa), the concentrated gaze provokes a sense of confusion… Why is a woman who looks so concentrated, yet spacey, wearing such a bold and powerful outfit?  The story of Monroe and the troubled life she led (with a persona of complete confidence and a mind of intense insecurity), however, provides insight as to why Avedon may have photographed her in this way.


This photo aligns with the style of many of Avedon’s photographs.  While the figures are often emaciated beyond comprehension, thus presented as mere figures in the composition of the photographs, the clothing they wear is displayed prominently.

This photograph also aligns with the concept I mentioned above.  While the subject is thin, as is fitting for a fashion photograph, the coat she is wearing consumes her body in a beautiful way.  While it may take up the majority of her figure, it highlights many features that are regarded as womanly and elegant: a long neck (with the large, exaggerated collar), her tiny hands (with one hidden in the pocket, and the other squeezed tightly around the umbrella handle), and her long legs (which the viewer can assume are lengthy by the proportion of her calves to the rest of her hidden body).

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