This image from Remembering Hardware was highly impactful to me because of the rules it seems to break. It seems like the light bulbs at the very front of frame should be the most in focus, and the one to the very right, a bit separated from the rest, should be the focus in the lower right-hand third. However, the viewer’s eye is forced to focus on what appears to be a sign for the lightbulbs. The photo shows the depth of the shot, by focusing on what is in the background rather than the foreground, as well as not framing it directly with the lines of the sign. The viewer can see the other items on the wall, and to someone looking at this in real life, the significance of the light bulbs would be lost.
To me, this part of the photo story was what really illustrated the subject’s character to me. It seems like Mr. Kramer’s entire life has revolved around his father’s hardware store since he was a kid– it’s appropriate that even in something as ceremonial and sacred as honoring his father’s memory, he would relate it back to the store they had run together during his youth. By showing the lightbulbs within the store, the photograph seems to convey the message that it isn’t only the lightbulb ritual that honors Mr. Kramer’s family– it’s the store itself. To the average person, using those brand of lightbulbs could be seen as insulting to the deceased. It’s as if he found whatever happened to be lying around out of convenience. However, to Mr. Kramer, it could only be the lightbulbs sold in the hardware store used in his father’s memorial. The entire store is a testament to his family’s legacy, and by keeping the traditions of not only his Jewish culture, but of his parents’ livelihood, he preserves their memory in a way that wouldn’t be as powerful if depicted outside of the hardware store.
To me, this photograph is the most intimate between the subject and the viewer, even though the subject isn’t depicted within the frame. It shows a deep insight into the viewer’s mentality in relation to his family, as well as illustrates the importance of the hardware store to him emotionally rather than just financially. Having no actual interaction between Mr. Kramer and the lightbulbs, yet describing the significance of them in the caption makes them seem all the more sacred and symbolic.