In the case of Ian Berry’s images of Whitby, removing the people from the frames would take away a number of things:
- a natural human interest in the subject matter;
- a sense of the era in which the pictures were taken (based on clothing, glasses, hairstyles, etc.);
- some identifiers about the place (people playing cricket and men in flat caps suggest a UK location);
- an idea of the time of year (warm enough for sitting in the grass, wearing short sleeves and paddling in the sea);
- a sense of scale in the landscape, based on human proportions in it; and
- a hint at why the photographer may have taken these images (to document people enjoying their leisure time together).
Without these indicators the pictures would be much less interesting and tell a very different story about Whitby: it would look quite lifeless and bleak.
When familiar figures are missing (pp.168–169) we are lacking crucial information that helps us to establish scale, depth, proportion and perspective. What would otherwise 'read' as three-dimensional appears flat and of uncertain size.