Here’s how an Associated Press photographer found the extraordinary in a red hat

Associated Press photographer and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Emilio Morenatti has visited more than 50 countries in a 30-year career, always looking to elevate a moment by finding the beauty in the mundane. His most recent trip was to South Africa for the national elections. Here’s what he had to say about making this extraordinary photo.

Why this photo?

I had been waiting for several hours at a polling station for the arrival of the former president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma. In the meantime, a man wearing a red hat caught my attention. I took some pictures of him while he was queuing up to vote.

I watched him for about 10 minutes until he entered the booth to choose his candidate. I found the effect of the hat emerging from the booth interesting and shot several frames before raising the camera. The green background of the board made the red hat stand out dramatically.

How I made this photo

Thanks to the articulated screen of the Sony Alfa A1, I managed to frame the shot while raising the camera as high as my arms would allow. I worked on the framing by placing each corner of the booth at the edges of the image. Then, the man raised his head for a second, allowing me to see his face. I shot seven or eight frames with this framing, and the 50mm f/1.4 lens did the rest of the work, thanks to its depth of field.

At that moment, I realized that I had just achieved the image I had envisioned a few moments before in my mind.

Why this photo works

My goal as a photographer is to find and highlight the beauty in everyday scenes. I strive to ensure that viewers are not indifferent when they look at my photographs. Capturing the audience’s attention is the biggest challenge I face daily as a photographer. I observe the world in color, favoring warm latitudes and playing with vibrant color compositions. I often imagine how certain colors complement each other, like that red hat against a green slate background. From there, I create the color composition — and that’s when the creative process truly begins.

I believe that beauty can be found in the most mundane moments, and my work is dedicated to uncovering those hidden gems. Each photograph is an opportunity to tell a story, evoke emotion and offer a fresh perspective on the world around us. My passion lies in transforming ordinary scenes into captivating images that resonate with viewers on a deeper level.

In my creative journey, I am constantly inspired by the interplay of light and shadow, the harmony of colors and the subtleties of texture. I aim to push the boundaries of traditional photography by experimenting with different techniques and perspectives, always seeking to capture the essence of the moment.

Ultimately, my goal is to create images that not only catch the eye but also linger in the mind, provoking thought and sparking curiosity. By sharing my vision and passion for photography, I hope to inspire others to see the world through a different lens and find beauty in the everyday.


For more extraordinary AP photography, click here.

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