“Morning Cigarette” by Stephen Uhraney

I have been wanting to do a narrative photograph with my girlfriend for quite sometime.

As she was sitting on the tub about to light her cigarette I had the idea to do this shot. The colour of the reflected light in the bathroom gives it a retro feeling maybe late 60s or 70s it was just right. The way her nightgown hung and draped across her legs was beautiful, and being early in the morning the smoke was showing up perfectly. A turn of her head and the retro colour I feel made the picture. It evokes a mood.

Nothing was added to the frame, everything in the shot was as she placed it when she sat down. I believe keeping just a slight bit of the toilet in the frame was important, one of the shots I did, did not have it in and the feeling just wasn’t there, and of course with the paper roll on the right side of the frame it just made sense to keep it in.

I think anyone can apply their own story to this shot as it was already seen by the comments in the FRAMES Facebook Group. All objects were already in the scene, nothing was added to the frame at all. It was shot as though she did not know it was being taken as to give it its mood and feeling.

That’s the beauty of narrative photography, everyone can apply their own story to it. No artificial light was used, only the window light and reflected light off the tiles, walls and ceiling. Truth be told embarrassingly, only a few frames were taken, the whole thing took less than 2 minutes.

Narrative photography goes hand in hand with my professional career as a documentary/editorial photographer, yet I have not done much of it as stand alone pics, my work is mostly used in stories or articles. This is something I definitely have an interest in and will certainly do more of it. Having to describe the shot is like looking behind the curtain or pulling off the mask, it is a very good exercise.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

I believe it to be the colour and the turn of the head as if she is unaware that a photo is being taken. Although she is totally posed, I feel it evokes a moment of solitude and break from life. Everyone can relate to a morning cigarette, a cup of coffee and taking a few moments for yourself. And the retro look to it – it looks like a shot from the 60s or 70s. It has a visceral feeling, it relates deep inside you rather than to the intellect.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

The one thing I would have done for sure is to pull the actual package of cigarettes more into the shot. When I saw this as a possible picture I did not move anything. Everything is exactly where she put it when she sat down.

Stephen Uhraney shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Stephen Uhraney, Mississauga Ontario, Canada


Equipment and settings

Fujifilm X-T3, Fujinon XF16mm F2.8 R WR
Shot manually. 1/125th sec., f/4.5, ISO 500

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Comments (10):

  1. Lance Hidy

    September 4, 2021 at 13:28

    Extraordinary, beautiful. Translucency of smoke and nightgown. Both of my parents were smokers, dying of lung diseases prematurely. I see the young woman as a nicotine addict whose life will likely be cut short. Her body language adds to this foreboding mood. I realize that young people who have not experienced the trauma of cigarette-caused deaths of loved ones will have a more innocent enjoyment of this image.

    • Stephen Uhraney

      September 19, 2021 at 16:35

      Lance, thank you, I love the take on your thoughts!!

  2. Terrance+Wimmer

    September 10, 2021 at 19:34

    I loved this photograph when I saw it on the FB page. Even more now seeing it larger and spending extra time looking at it in a bit more analytical way.

  3. Jaffer Bhimji

    September 11, 2021 at 14:46

    I echo Lance Hidy’s observations and still appreciate the mood and the narrative of the frame. Well done!

  4. Peter J Crowley

    September 13, 2021 at 02:04

    Very fine image. When you say retro about the color I immediately thought Ektachrome LOL. I will peruse your work more ay the moment it isn’t loading your documentary portfolio. Most likely it is my computer. peace

  5. Dennis Alcorn

    September 14, 2021 at 21:24

    This is an extraordinary image. As a collector of fine art photography, I can easily confirm it as worthy of having in a collection. There are appealing nuances all over the place! Keep up the great work.


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