vasilios sfinarolakis – warmth



The Warmth of Isolation by Vasilios Sfinarolakis

We are never alone, but we are all lonely.

Website: Vasilios Sfinarolakis


56 Responses to “vasilios sfinarolakis – warmth”

  • bjarte – lonelyness… likes the 90% black.. strange to be sitting on a toilet..
    annette – feels painful.. her body language makes her feel sad.. depressed..
    jan – makes him wonder why she is sitting there.. what the story is.. wants to see more of her story.. has been been adused in some way? or is she just bored ? the text adds that it doesn´t have to be a sad thing.. lonelytime can be quality time..
    gunn – is this a begining? feels like the begining of a film or story.. has she been doing her toenails? probably not. bathroom is the most private room..
    bjørn erik – wants to know more about her.. what is she thinking?

    and finally.
    i love the photos ambiguity – one of the points of photography being that all we know is what the photo is telling us.. the before, áfter and thoughts in the womans head are a mystery to us.
    naked… on a toilet.. toilets are used to rid us of waste and i wonder if her fetal body langage and nudity on the toilet, while in deep thought, imply that she is ridding her mind of waste – naked to the world and as a baby.

    lonely and warm.. i like being lonely and so this photo appeals to the romantic sense i have for being alone and clearing the files of my brain.
    to me she is calm.. warm.. content is the lake of her own thoughts.

    thats enough from my right brain.

    photographically i like the door slighty off verticle.. the warmth of the colour cast.. the coupling with words which allows us to not only feel something bad has happened..
    not alone – as someone has photographed her – lonely nontheless..

    BREAKTIME.. whoopwhoop.-

  • I like the colour cast, and it interests me more than the content which I’ve seen 1000 times before.

  • DB you rock!

    From me, a pretty picture, pretty contrived as it’s pretty certain to be staged, but pretty commercial in that i’m certain that soemone could write some nice poetry next to it and i would enjoy the match. Also this mihgt make a best-seller’s book cover even more of a best seller!

  • I’m unmoved by this photograph.

  • All the elements are in the right place for it to be a great frame. The noise though kills all of that potential for me. I just cannot get past it. it fairly screams at me, which is a shame.
    John ‘not quite sure what side of the brain im on today’ gladdy

  • Looks like something from Girl, Interrupted. It almost looks like she is going to start rocking back and forth.

  • Seems pretty contrived, could be used as an editorial in a Marie claire.

  • maybe it’s her first time…

    and she shouldn’t have…

  • this picture for some reason does not touch me…
    but i like the 90% white on emos
    and the 90% black on this one
    teaching possibilities

  • contrived, yes. posed, yes. could be a book cover, an editorial photo, an ad… would need a little finessing to take it to a commercial level, technically… IMHO… vasilios, thanks for sharing… some strong work on your website, as a photographer and filmmaker i think you’ll find a way in this nutty business. congrats on burning it up, bro.

  • This photo appears staged to me..
    yes, a still from a film,
    or book cover…
    I must admit,
    I disagree with the caption…
    My favorite part of the photo,
    is the light coming through the crack of the door…
    and the cowboy hat…

  • My stupid eyes keep coming back to the sharpest spot, the door knob.

  • I can see this working in an essay with other images relevant to the subject, but as a single it just doesn’t have enough for me.

    So is it staged?

  • I like the photo, maybe not spectacularly, but well enough. Personally, the noise doesn’t bother me, nor does the doorknob.
    “So is it staged?”
    Some people seem to think so… I would guess probably yes, but in ‘real world’ shooting there’s often a pretty murky grey area between totally staged and totally serendipitous… if it’s the photographers’ girlfriend, if he takes pictures of her a lot, if she’s half aware and half unconscious of the precise moments he’s shooting, then where is the boundary between staged and unstaged? And it seems like this photo is as good an opportunity as any for thinking about why it matters whether it is staged or not… I mean, as long as it’s not intended to be photojournalism. It IS reminiscent of a movie still… and that may be why it suggests a contrived quality. To be concerned about whether or not it’s staged seems to show a prejudice that bleeds over from the world of journalism and street photography… or a dadaist art aesthetic that says that a found object has more merit than one that is contrived… But consider this argument (just for a little contrariness!): if it’s staged, then the photographer has the model’s consent and cooperation and it couldn’t be considered exploitive or an invasion of privacy… but if it’s not staged, and she’s not cooperating or even aware, doesn’t that make this, potentially at least, exploitative or an invasion of privacy? Too murky for me to make a judgment about! All I know is, I kinda like it… and no doubt part of my positive reaction (confess, confess) is that the subject is fairly attractive and the composition well balanced.

  • Why does it matter if a photo is staged?

    What is the difference between a pretty picture and a pretty important photograph?

    Why are we fascinated with the authenticity of photos that we think might have been staged (e.g. Capa’s)

    For me, photography affirms reality, but does not explain it. Part of it’s strength lies in its ambiguity, its suggestiveness. – Alex Webb

    Me, Joe, not fact, my opinion, i believe that a still image stills offers an illusion in that you don’t know for sure what’s happened before it and you don’t know for sure what’s happened after it, but you know something has already happened by the time you see it and you have the luxury of looking at that image, contemplating that image, studying that image indefinitely for what it is, or indefinitely as a metaphor for something else.

    Again, Me, Joe, Opinion, Not Fact, I beleive for this reason a still image will always have an unmatched strength against the flowing aspect of moving pictures and even written narratives, but… only if that image actually carries the pedigree of authenticity; we simply need to believe that the image was not staged or we ‘will’ know what happened before (some one took a light reading) and we ‘will’ know what happened after (the model went back to his or her chair).

    this is why the PJ ethic… ‘this is what i saw’… is still a prerequisite for the illusion,…even if …‘this is the message I hoped to send’… might be a bit different than what’s on the surface.

  • Well, I don’t know… My personal photography is in a deep crisis, maybe it has never been great. I have been working on my recent project – “antiques market”, but after four attempts to approach the subject I feel that pictures came out empty and just a couple of shots are average. And I see so many of my colleagues are at exactly the same stage, however a lot of them don’t think realistically about their pictures. This particular shot, while not that weak, from the artistic point of view is nothing to be admired and isn’t executed properly from the technical point of view. It’s just one of those pictures that nowadays Internet is full of. I guess, we have to admit the fact that majority of us will never be HCB, DAH, McCurry, Abbas, Solgado…… Personally, from my and others photography I want the highest class art, or I don’t want to see anything at all. I know, it’s subjective, but a top class photography is a top class photography. No offense at all, Vasilios is much better photographer than I am. These are just my wrong thoughts.

  • …and clearly we know this image is not PJ, but we clearly mention it, so it seems clearly to be important not to the ethics of PJ, but to the pallet of audiences of photography for what ever visual purpose.

  • “Cliche” and “derivative” have been (unofficially and in good fun) banned from this forum… and now I say “contrived” should be next.


  • Michael,
    yep you’re right sloppy, lazy, will try harder next time.

  • When I see the singles that DAH posts here I don’t immediately go to the photographer’s website and try to find context. I simply absorb the image at hand and see if it touches me in any way. I like this photo. It is visually and emotionally compelling. Love the “noise”, though I admit to also being bugged a little by the doorknob being the sharpest element. I don’t know or care if it was “staged.” That is completely irrelevant.

    Nice shot Vasilios.

  • i keep coming back…. busy day… i love this… the writing does it for me and the entire image… weather the door knob is sharp or if nothing is sharp… does not matter to me… the image as a whole with the writing is good for me… i really like this…

  • the color caste hurts my eyes, even if this is called warmth, i would prefer the more natural and believable colors that my eye would see if i entered this dark room and stumbled upon this woman’s private moment of contemplation in the bathroom with the door left ajar. The staging doesn’t phase me at all. Women have been posed in every sort of position for all kinds of art and illustration since men graduated from leaving simple hand prints on cave walls. i do feel like a bit of a voyeur here, but in a sympathetic, like a lover who is trying to figure out what i can do to tell her i’m sorry and get her to come back to bed..ohhhhhh, but that scalding color caste is just over the top for me..


  • sorry…my post last was a very good example of very bad writing..but am in a pressure cooker today..Vasillos..nice concept..evocative..but the color (?)

    best again

  • Interesting photo although not my favorite. I do agree with “stupid” (man I wish I could use that more when I really think the person is… I watch way too much House!) in that I would like it more if it were sharper. I cant decide if it is camera noise or the strong yellow or it is just not as sharp as it could be…. It is an image I would call really really close to being really great.

    I don’t think it matters if it is staged or not unless there is a caption indicating or suggesting that it is not staged when it really is. A agree that there seems to be a lot of people hung up on whether an image is staged. And being a photojournalist first, it is something I think about. But unless it is being passed off as a natural candid moment, and it is really not, it should not be a problem. Why can’t someone look at this as simply a portrait?

    And in reference the beginning part of my post… if it is staged, Reshoot it!

  • Also,

    I agree with Kathleen F…. The yellow is too much. I understand the warmth thing, but lets be fair… there is no way that the scene “looked” that yellow. If it is a staged photo and the photographer wanted to make it warm feeling, I would just back it off a bit with some color correction. It may actually look even better and cause people to ask more questions about what she is thinking if it were a colder image.

  • Great photograph Vasilios.

    It’s one of those photographs that let you make up your own story. It hints at little secrets, draws me in, stirs my curiosity. A lovely little visual poem.
    You’ve called it the warmth of isolation. I usually hate titles on photographs, but to my surprise, it works for me. Bathrooms can be such a wonderfully intimate private places.

    This is a beautifully crafted image Vasilios. I love the composition. The subject smack dab in the middle of the frame, the vertical slash of light punctuated by the door knob, I even like the fact that the slash is slightly off vertical, something which usually bothers me. Finally the two dark shapes on either side, with the hint of detail. Brilliant.

    This image indeed feels “commercial” in nature as some have suggested. This is absolutely a good thing from my point of view. A succesful commercial image, one people actually pay money for, has to be well crafted. Some people see that as slick. I see it as good craftsmanship.

    I’ve looked at this image on two screens now, on my laptop at home, and here at my studio on two different calibrated monitors. It looks awesome at home on my un-calibrated monitor, but I’m afraid it looks over the top red/yellow on the my calibrated monitors . Are you using a calibrated monitor Vasilios?

    Gordon L

  • I don’t care if it is “staged” or not, was just interested to know…

  • interesting wording James.

  • Before ‘Staged’ gets added to the banned-words list as something both dismissive and derogatory you can’t help but think about first Jeff Wall and then of Gregory Crewdson; both masters of staged photography, but seemingly able to lose nothing in the process.

    I suspect there’s genuine genius with both artists and a proof-positive reason not to make the word staged such a discount, only an attribute.

  • Staged photos. Well, many of my self portraits in Falling into Place were/are “staged,” if that means setting a shot up instead of simply capturing what’s there in front of you. I mean how else could you take a photo of yourself using a timer or remote shutter release gizmo? But my rule for myself is that even shots that I set up must be honest, and by that I mean they must reflect the reality of my life not some idealized or dramatized vision of how I wish it were. In other words, I can’t guild the lily.

    But that’s just me and that’s just how I’m working on this series. Another project might send me into Cindy Sherman costumes/make-up or who knows what kind of dramatic effects.

    In relation to Vasilios’ photo, I expect it was set up and that doesn’t detract in the least, not for me anyway. It actually reminds me a lot of a self portrait I took in a New Jersey motel–I’m sure DAH knows to which photo I’m referring–and mine ended up with that same strange yellow contrasting with dark shadows. I doubt if Vasilios did any color manipulation here at all. But, again, if he did, so what? He’s allowed. It’s his photo, after all.

    You know, I really love the sharp silhouette of the doorknob and the crack of light and hinges on that door. The subtle light shining on the floor, wall and paper on the chest also intrigue me. If it were my photo I probably would have used my trusty PS shadow/highlight function to bring the light down a bit on the yellow/inside the bathroom portion of the photo, and then brought up the contrast a bit, but hey, that’s just my way of doing things. As I said before, this is Vasilios’ photo and it’s his to present in any way he chooses. I think he’s done well here. He’s hinted at a story that leaves us guessing and that is cool.


  • “Cliche”, “derivative” and…“contrived” … :)))
    Just don’t like the banning…
    I Like the atmosphere… Dionysian also if still philological although the yellow or may be just for that

  • I remember watching an interview with Trent Parke about his “The Christmas Bucket” essay where he discusses that some of his photos were staged. His philosophy, if I remember correctly, is that it is still real life even if the photographer says “stop: hold that pose.” I agree. Of course, the climax scene with the red bucket does not seem staged at all — at least I doubt it!

    I like Vasilios’ photo. It would be one that I would like to take for my personal memory. In fact, I have a similar one in black and white. But yeah… without saying a banned word, it is very Hallmark card. My main gripe is the quality of the image and the orange light. While I understand it adds a warmth, I am reminded of the pervasive, and ugly, monochromatic sodium vapour lights used in street lamps. Seriously, I think photographers might consider rallying against those for a change instead of always of chanting for our rights sometimes. Anyways… the orange is distracting for me.

  • Patricia: yes, you nailed it. Can’t add much more – I like that the shadows give just a hint of what they contain. After that, read Patricia. Welcome back; you’ve been missed!

    Best wishes,


  • i am in the camp with those for whom it does not matter if the photograph was “built” or not…Joe’s references to Wall and Crewdson were quite correct in pointing out that “constructed” photographs certainly, at the moment, hold high value in the collectors print market…fiction and non-fiction books are clearly separated in your local bookstore, but “value” is not attached one way or the other…as readers we can be in the mood for one or the other…..

    i have chosen to “bear witness” on most of my work, but certainly do not rule out “building” as a way of expressing certain ideas….i.e. my upcoming illustrated novella “You Made Me Leave” (sad love story) will be clearly labeled “fiction” on the cover even though some of the pictures were “captured moments”…the presentation however makes it fiction..certain “truths” can only be told through fiction where “artistic license” allows real freedom to speak …however, my “Off For A Family Drive” will be presented as documentary even though i “posed” many families for their picture…in my mind those pictures are still documentary because posing a family to have their picture taken is surely part of a family life flow…

    the only place where clear identification and “rules” apply is in the press….in the press, photographers are quite literally fired if caught “setting up” a picture or using digital manipulation to alter “the truth”….there are several very well known cases where a photographer’s career was literally “over” after manipulating a scene…

    outside of press restrictions, i would suggest using your imagination any way you can….

    cheers, david

    p.s. on my monitor the Vasillios image is more sepia in nature…warm, monochromatic, but not yellow…even in “real life” we all have different “color balance”…throw in the monitor variance and we must all be seeing something slightly different…

  • As I said earlier, I have no problems at all with the frame or whether or not its a set-up. I love the comp and really want to love the picture, but.. that noise banding [best guess
    : digi under exposure black noise] it just stops me seeing whats there. This is NOT a purist stance btw, I just need a picture to work, however its done, and , for me, the noise stops it doing that Fully.

  • I love this kind of images and this is my way of working also.
    apparently simple photos with some story behind.
    But for me it is beginning of a whole essay, a big story told by this simple images. Very difficult to do.


    I am not able to get to your website, so I don’t know what kind photographer are you. And what is your vision.
    But this photo is very nice.

  • I love this kind of photography and this is my way of working also.
    apparently simple photos and a story behind.
    But for me this is beginning of whole essay, whole story told by this kind of images.
    Very difficult stuff.


    I am not able to get to your website, so I don’t know hat kind of photographer you are and what is your wision.
    But photo is very nice.

    peace :)

  • DAH

    I looked at this photo on 3 monitors of varying quality and the result is just more or less intensely the same. Alas, a subtle sepia would be a big improvement.

    John Gladdy,

    I agree. It’s so weird, i didn’t see the noise on my good monitor and slid it over to my other monitor and now i do. i don’t mind noise, i do mind uncorrected noise. And by corrected i don’t mean eliminated and over-smoothed in PS. I mean treated so that it looks less electronic and more like, uh, er, well film. I guess we all (read me) can’t afford one of the new full sensor cameras and have to accept noise as an inevitable fact of life but there are techniques to make that raked over gravel more palatable. The noise and the lack of adjustment for white balance do nothing for the wonderful contemplative moment achieved by Vasillos. Just a little more care and technique would have made this photo a winner for me.


    great to see you commenting again. Your thoughts always possess great integrity and bear serious consideration.


  • It is inevitable that we will all have different viewing experiences with different monitors.

    An un-calibrated monitor is usually optimised for web viewing. I’m not really up on the tech stuff involved, except that I know my photos often look vastly different on calibrated or un-calibrated monitors. My monitors show me very accurately what a print will look like when printed on a profiled printer. Vasilios’ photo will print extremely yellow/red if printed as is. It looks great however on my un-calibrated laptop, a lovely sepia, with beautiful skin tones.
    On the other hand, some files of my own stuff print beautifully, but look grim and flat on the web.

    One possibe problem with this image could be the fact that it has no colour (Canadian/British spelling) profile imbedded. I’m not sure if that affects web viewing or not.

    Any experts on colour spaces out there?

    Gordon L. PS sorry for the tech type stuff, but it is important.

  • It seems so appropriate that introspection would happen in the bathroom, especially since it is a place that is full of reflection and cleansing.

  • Color (Colour) Calibration Problem

    Basically, you’re better off posting images on the Web with an embedded ICC profile in sRGB color space if you want any kind of even approximate consistency in how they are viewed. But it’s no guarantee.
    You’re always up against this problem designing or posting color (Yeah, I’m a Yank) images on the Web. A few years back I designed a website for a local painter who works in the Impressionist tradition, and he was terribly concerned about how the color would look… we compared the images on six different computer and monitor systems and they all looked different… (it turns out his own monitor was the worst). We ended up settling for an acceptable (to him) compromise but it took a lot of tweaking.
    This problem is compounded by the fact that so many people these days are viewing via laptops or LCD screens which are much harder to calibrate precisely than CRT’s were (at least the good ones)… and there’s also the question of ‘calibrated for what?’… I do a lot of printing myself, and my laptop screen is calibrated to match the output of my Epson printer as closely as possible rather than some software’s notion of ‘correct’ calibration. But if I pop a commercial DVD into my laptop, the color is all wrong and I have to switch over to a completely different monitor calibration profile that I have customized to make it look right.

  • More amber (sepia?) than yellow here. I keep going back to this picture to see it as a still-life. It’s the way it leaves its mark on me the most.

    Yet: I think the paper on the furniture is the most important item after the lady herself. Like a “Dear John/Jean” letter….

  • yep, there is fiction and non-fiction written work and it’s great that one’s not more valuable than the other; a great lesson to bring over to photography, i’ve not made that connection before, funny that.

    i also like to think about photography not necessarily as what it is. i like to think about it more for what ‘approach’ was taken and what the ultimate ‘intent’ was. thinking this way circumvents all the stigmas of taxonomy. Approach and intent always seem to result in more captivating conversation, especially when compared to the alternative chat, a conversation about what classification a photograph falls into.

    i also like the terms ‘constructed’ and ‘bear witness’ approaches to photography, those terms seem to circumvent all the stigmas associates with ‘staged’ or ‘authentic/candid/uncontaminated’. i think i will use those terms in favour of anything else when talking about approaches for now on.

  • Thanks Sidney, that helps a lot.

  • I like the image and warmth, but I think the seperation in the bathroom is poor. Could be fixed with a simple curve adjustment.

  • I’ve come back to this picture a few times to see how my reaction might change, but I have trouble seeing it as more than a tender snapshot.

    My first reaction was that she was doing her nails, and it is hard to translate this impression into one of solace and solitude.

    I agree with the comments regarding the noise.

    I get a feeling that either the picture is composed but sloppy, or it is spontaneous. If spontaneous I can relate to why the composition would be alluring to the photographer, end of story. But if composed I find fault with various details.

    A) the use of negative black space on each end is too much wasted space that adds little to the picture. Had the composition been vertical, the effect could very likely be stronger. That being said however, the image is not sharp, an so my floats across without settling on anything unless I intentionally will it to.

    B) If composed, then it should have more sharpness and better use of ISO to eliminate the noise. I think this could have been achieved by composing for the shadows, which in turn would blow the highlights out a couple of stops, but then the highlights could be recovered in post-production simply by bringing exposure down two stops. This could help use a lower ISO, maintain the visual ratio of black to white and eliminate noise in the process.

    C) If composed I would perhaps experiment with a vertical lay out to play to the heavy center weighting of the image, require less balancing of high and low keys (hence the need to compensate with high ISO).

    D) If composed I would pay closer attention to the towel on the door that distracts from a clean line and frame. I would also try to align the horizon better.

    E) If composed I would pay closer attention to her pose. It seems her right arm is coming out between her legs, and this would seem like an uncomfortable if not unnatural pose, that distracts from the natural feel the photographer seems to want to give. I would also angle the camera to give her silhouette more space.

    If not composed I would discard everything I just wrote and take it as a pleasant snapshot.

  • Hi Jan!

    Just a question..with regard to “B”, Looking at this photo do you think maybe it was shot in JPG mode? It seems to me the color caste was an unexpected surprise. In raw it’s very easy to correct for such a warm color caste but in JPG, phew, not so. So, if Vasillos shoots in jpg mode do you think he’d have much chance of recovering highlights that have been blown out a “couple of stops” by exposing for the shadows? I have shot a lot of ballet in dark conditions. If i shot in JPG mode, it would have been a post-processing nightmare. Just wondering what you think..


  • Kathie,

    I don’t get any strange color casts on my monitor, it looks very much as I would expect this to if I came across her like this.

    Regardless, one should always shoot in RAW if any post-processing is to be done. In this light (pardon the pun) the file would have more information with which to recover the highlights successfully and smoothly. Digital files have more (much much more) information in the highlights than film or what the eye registers. It is therefore very recommended to expose to the right on your histogram so that one captures more information than the eye tells you is there. In effect if you blow the highlights visually, you are likely still safe electronically and can recover 1-2 stops safely and with a good amount of detail–to the point of visually “bringing back” and image.

    If shot in jpg there is less information to correct with, and I suspect it would worsen the color cast by making the transition less smooth and therefore add to the stunted feeling.

  • Hi Jan

    Yes, well, the color was widely discussed and on three of my monitors it’s very orange. Which reminded me of a time i was persuaded to shoot a black jazz singer performing in a club in JPG mode. I never shoot jpg but this guy was persuasive so i did it. It was for a job for the Canadian Embassy. WHAT a mistake! I could not recover natural color and even bought special software to help me, to no avail. So converted to B&W. Hence my thought that Vasillos was making lemonade out of a lemon (color wise). I am not sure about your comparison of digital info to film. i shoot both and with digital find my problem is with highlights and with film it’s the other way around; i lose detail in the shadows. But i am admittedly a relative newcomer to this sport. Anyway, just curious about your answer and it’s as i thought. In jpg, no way..raw maybe/probably/hopefully.

    thanks, Jan! Good comment, by the way..very thoughtful, as usual :)


  • Kathleen,

    Ha! that happened to me once on a DVD shoot, was the last time w/jpgs.

    Michael Reichman explains the shooting to the right best.

    Hope it helps.


  • Jan…

    grr…yes, me and jpgs are not on friendly speaking terms when in capture mode!

    now THAT link looks interesting..saving for tomorrow…phew..2:30am! yikes!! i am a scan-a-holic..

    k, thanks for your replies, Jan..take care..


  • er…correction: JPGs and i…after midnight my writing suffers from a case of diminishing grammatical returns..

  • Awesome picture vass….that dude who commented on the noise (in my opinion) wrong. I like the fuzzyness of the gives the photo a painterly feel to it. remember people….anyone can use photoshop…anyone can take a clear picture…but that doesn’t make it art!

  • Kwabena Amofa-Baah

    1. There is something to be said about having the creative skill to design a setting that could only otherwise exist by chance.

    2. Beyond point number one is the ability of the same individual to expertly capture the art of the moment through photography.


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