cigarette photo essay


My photo essay is the process of smoking a cigarette. I was originally planning to simply do the process of smoking a cigarette with my friend as the only model, taking the cigarette out of the pack, smoking, tinting, and then putting the cigarette out with his foot.

It seemed simple enough until I began taking the photographs. You don’t realize how long it takes to smoke a cigarette until you’re behind a camera and every detail matters. I ended up with a total of almost a hundred snap shots and when I arrived home to select the photos the ten frames seemed overwhelming.

So, I spiced it up a bit. It took a lot of thought and eye for detail but I realized that as my friend was smoking the cigarette the ash grew longer and longer, so I took matters into my own hands. I decided that I would take a single cigarette, light it, and watch it burn, have the ash build up and create some contrast to the portrait like shots I originally took.

When my friend was modeling I put my camera into the manual setting to experiment, everything looked so much more rich and crisp, I liked it. So, when I arrived home to experiment with the single burning cigarette I placed my camera into the manual setting again, zooming closely in on the cigarette to make it appear larger than life. The ash was so defined, the creases in the bottom of the cigarette captured the light, and it was a success.

I decided to separate the images of my friend smoking a cigarette with the larger than life close ups for I felt it added a feeling of passing of time. Each close up of the burning cigarette showed a marked difference in the quantity of ash, as to show my friend inhaling that much smoke.

On the walk to my apartment I spotted red brick staircases, I immediately thought of this project and thought the contrast would work perfectly. The setting of where my friend is smoking and the black background of the larger than life cigarette is intentional.  I wanted to show a marked difference in not only setting but time. Due to the constant theme of the cigarette I don’t believe that the difference in color or setting is too harsh to digest.

As a whole I am satisfied with the outcome of my project. I think I illustrated not only the process of smoking a cigarette but the time that passes during the action.



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6 responses to “cigarette photo essay

  1. kylos

    good job examining a simple action in detail. i think the close ups really strengthen the series and show some technical skill. varying your angle and proximity to your model may spice up the ‘action’ photos more. except for the first shot of him, they’re all about the same distance and angle from the subject. make the changes in camera position more extreme.

  2. chelseaspiehs

    i love this photo essay. I think that the close up shot of the cigarette between in shot of the model are very powerful. The bricks as the setting behind your model set the mood as very urban and goes well with your photo essay. The end shot is my favorite: with the reflection of the finished cigarette in the black background. This was my favorite photo essay. The pictures are well done and it makes you really analyze an event that happens daily.

  3. Morgan Immerman

    I think you did a really great job with this photo essay. I liked your idea to show the cigarettes in various states of burnt to illustrate the passing of time. The way you presented the close ups of the cigarettes was done well. I liked both the framing, and the continuity of framing throughout the shots. And it made sense that the final finished cigarette was shot differently than the others. The shots of the smoker were also done well. Despite small changes, he always appears in the right half of the frame. I agree with Professor Brannon that some close-ups of him may have added something to the essay, but it’s still effective.

  4. algerianfox

    I think that this is the best photo essay of our class, Not only because Karim is my friend, but because of the idea and the way you put the pictures together; I liked all the little touches you added into it, with the cigarette different steps, and the different shots of him smoking, the background of the cigarette was nicely thought of “all black”.
    Well done.
    Billel Hariche

  5. jbellan

    I think this is a great photo essay. I like how we watch the cigarette up close as it burns. I think the black background was a great choice, and the effect wouldn’t be the same if you had chosen a different color. This must have taken a lot of effort to capture, but it seems like it was effortless, which I think is great. I do think that it would have been interesting to see the guy smoking the cigarette close up perhaps, or just in some different way. I really like the photo essay overall, it was a great idea, and I think you did a great job shooting it.

  6. This is a great photo essay. I love the detail that you can see. The close up makes the burning process of the cigarette really powerful. I also like how you chose to use a dark background, it really makes the cigarette pop out. I also like how you used a person smoking in every other shot, it had a great effect.

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