Aspect Ratio (symbols)

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Julie H, Jul 1, 2017.

  1. gravity

    "... the terrestrial animal maintains permanent orientation to the earth — that is, to gravity and the surface of support, these being the chief constants of the environment." — J.J. Gibson


    "... We look at the situation from our human perspective, that is, from the viewpoint of small creatures that crawl on the surface of the earth. ... Our relation to the downward pull is somewhat ambiguous. We may experience it not as an attraction from the outside but as weight, that is, as a property of our own body. Weight is perceived as an active force that presses us downward. Even so, this heaviness is not felt as being under our control; it is a burden we have to cope with. Any initiative toward movement must overcome the inertia inherent in weight." — Rudolf Arnheim

    "... The range of inputs, from a horizontal posture through vertical to horizontal again, defines the meaning of any given input. Consequently the animal's nervous system must have differentiated this range if it is to detect "down" and make compensatory righting reactions." — J.J. Gibson

    "... In the field of forces pervading our living space, any upward movement requires the investment of special energy, whereas downward movement can be accomplished by mere dropping or by merely removing any supports that keep objects from falling." — Rudolph Arnheim


    "... The occurrence of "whiteout" in the environment of a level snowplain under certain special weather conditions is instructive in this connection.... It is said to be a very alarming experience for those who drive vehicles about in arctic regions [and for pilots anywhere]." — J.J. Gibson


    "... Human beings experience the dynamic asymmetry, or anisotropy of space by means of two senses, kinesthesis and vision. ... Visually, the world is pervaded by a ... downward pull, whose influence on the dynamic character of things we see may be illustrated by the difference between what goes on visually in horizontal and vertical surfaces." — Rudolph Arnheim


    "... As we look at objects standing on the ground, be they trees or buildings, statues or even upright human beings, we see them as both pressing downward by their own weight and being pulled down by the ground's attraction, but also as sprouting up from the ground. The dominant direction depends on how much a center of its own is perceived in the object." — Rudolph Arnheim

    "Gravity is a universal and continuous constant. All organisms, even the plants, respond in some sense to gravity. The most primitive kind of responsiveness, accordingly, is that to gravity." — J.J. Gibson
  2. The Gourds, 1916 by Henri Matisse (65cm x 80cm)

    Each of the five objects is endowed with properties that make it strive against the gravitational pull: the large blue gourd reaches upward with its neck; the pitcher is dominated by the crescendo of the opening cone and a handle whose center lies high up; the little red funnel has its maximum expansion at the upper rim; the handle of the pan cover makes it seem ready to lift off; and a yellow gourd on the plate points upward like a chimney. Together the five shapes form a chorus of uplift, which strongly influence the mood of the entire performance.

    So much for the effect of the most powerful outer center [gravity] upon Matisse's painting. It is equally true, however, that the painting's distance from the floor and its protective frame isolate it sufficiently to let the five elements of the composition float in space rather freely. Only the fruits and vegetables on the plate rest on a base. The black and blue background of the picture offers no such support. Each of the five objects, of course, is a dynamic center of its own, and together they are organized around the balancing center in the middle of the rectangular canvas. The balancing center is not explicitly indicated by the painter — it has no "retinal presence" — but it is perceptually indispensable for establishing the equilibrium of the composition as a whole.

    The effects of the five objects upon one another depend on their relative visual weights, and these weights are determined by various factors, such as their size, their flatness or volume, their conformity to the framework of verticality and horizontality, their color and brightness, and so on. These various weight factors also determine the distances between the objects. They are established by the painter with delicate intuition. We understand, for example, that the two lower shapes, because of their heaviness, must keep a greater distance between them than the smaller shapes, whose mutual attraction is weaker and therefore requires less restraint. — Rudolph Arnhem [emphasis added]​


    [Though I have nothing to contribute to it, I'm enjoying the discussion of cinematic aspect ratio.]
  3. Another article discussing film aspect ratios, looking at Kubrick's films (a 'photographer's director' known for his meticulous framing) and some controversy at which aspect ratio each film was meant to be seen in. The examples from The Shining illustrate the differences well.

    KUBRICK AND HIS RATIOS - Alternate Ending
  4. The concepts of vertical and horizontal derive from living in a gravity well, which makes me wonder what frames would look like if we had evolved without gravity. Circular frames, like the portholes on the space station, might make more sense than square frames. The first Kodak box cameras, or Snap's Spectacles, with their circular formats, might be preferred. How would art evolve without gravity? Eduardo Kac, who has had his art on the International Space Station, has thought about this: A Space Odyssey: Making Art Up There.

    Buckminster Fuller pointed out that in Universe, there is no up and down, only in and out in relation to gravity wells.

    It's interesting that in many drawings or photographs of things seen through a microscope or telescope, the edge or frame is circular. The different worlds seen through the instruments don't seem as bound to our gravity, and it might be natural to use a circular frame for reasons beyond the circular field of view presented by the instrument. And speaking of the cinema, presenting a circular view suggests something outside of our immediate surroundings - looking through a keyhole or security peephole into another room, or through a telescope or microscope into another realm.
  5. Which reminds me how much I often love when old movies show the point of view of someone looking through binoculars, such as in some detective mysteries and some Westerns. A great example comes in Hitchcock's Rear Window, when Jimmy Stewart is snooping on a neighbor's apartment through a big zoom lens and Hitchcock, who consistently adopts Stewart's POV, has us see through the neighbor's open window framed by a circle formed by the lens.
  6. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

  7. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    not true. reproducing is the most primitive urge and we can do that in zero gravity environments. therefore sex tops gravity (for most normal organisms, poseur JJ Gibson excepted)
  8. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    anyhoo BOT. i am having trouble viewing aspect ratios as symbolic. to me, ymmv, kma, an aspect ratio is a presentation layer. it's something you utilise to capture and present your work and it can be changed without loss of viewer experience (wlove). the essence of Atget, HCB, Eggleston etc would be preserved if you changed the aspect ratio.

    but, what if you photo'd something incredibly symbolic, like a dove, and changed (in PP, maybe) the dove to something similar like a pigeon. would the photo have the same impact, wouldn't the photo be essentially different, wouldn't the viewer lose something?

    wiatts, imho, tsagsam, is that some things are strongly symbolic and some less so. i'd put aspect ratio in the latter.

    of course it could be i'm missing what symbolic means and if so, please enjoy the following, a major reworking of a previous postage of mine

  9. Norman have you also tried a vertical crop. If you crop it vertical (leaving the same distance between the edge of the frame and the pole on the left as it is with the pole on the right) it would have the man looking more to something that's taking place outside of the frame creating even more mystery and ambiguity in the image that is already there. I would have also cloned out the text in the background though I could also see why you would leave it there.
  10. I like the space in the left of the image. We see more of the fog, and that's the direction he is looking. I think those factors give the whole image a nice balance between the "weights" of the picture elements.
  11. When cropped vertical Norman's image would probably benefit from leaving more space to the left than to the right (so not cropped with equal space between the edges and the two poles like I first suggested). Yes, a lot of the fog would still be lost to the eye but some of that would be gained back in the mind (what we can't see and have to imagine is often more powerful than what we do see).

    The below image what shot on 35mm but I couldn't see it working any other way than in 1:1.

    Norman likes this.
  12. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    Thanks for the suggestions, i'll bear them in mind. i think one positive aspect of aspect ratios is they do encourage debate with no real right answer.
  13. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    i've just watched a few tv re-runs that were shot in 4:3 and they were as life like as i remember them. but the 4:3 ar looked dated because it is dated whereas 4:3 is a popular and contemporary ar in photography. same with 1:1, loved in one, ignored in another.

    i'm not sure where i am going with this but i think photography works with less than life like aspect ratios. photography almost seems to want to distance itself from movies
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2017
  14. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    Phil, why? To me the photo looks like a face. was that your intention?
  15. Yes, agree about the still format being different than moving pictures. Thats why I wanted to be clear that I was referring to movies, not still photos. I tend to pay more attention to the frame edges in still photos, whereas in movies, I am more focused at the center of the screen where action is taking place. In photos, I get a sense of enclosed space, like something special being enclosed within the frame, something thats different from real life. That may be a reason why photography works with so many different aspect ratios, because we differentiate it from a living moving world.
  16. Norman

    Norman Norman T Naffington

    and rightly so
  17. I'm with Norman to an extent. I don't view aspect ratio as symbolic. I think it is awkwardly placed into a symbolic role or under a symbolic heading.

    I do, however, give aspect ratio an important role in how a photo will feel, questions of symbolism aside. I think of it as a baseline, probably not a great analogy, but maybe somewhat like I think of a matte or glossy finish to the paper a photo is printed on. It's an underpinning.

    To me, the crop suggestions on Norman's photo, which I would leave as Norman chooses, are only secondarily about aspect ratio. Obviously, any new crop not in the same ratio will necessarily change the aspect ratio. But I don't sense the crops are being suggested because of the change in aspect ratio as much as because of the changes to composition. Now, of course composition and aspect ratio affect each other and are related, but they're not the same things.
  18. I never cropped any of my 35 mm images when I changed them into 4:5. Forcing an image in 3:2 aspect ratio into a 4:5 will give some distortions but it never bothered me.

    Below is an example of a change in aspect ratio without changing the composition.


  19. No, it's more that I saw the square crop/aspect ratio to be working the best with the minimalism of the subject.
  20. Those are really interesting to look at, one with the other.

    They are substantially different, to my eye. The lower is much airier, even buoyant; and the woman reads completely different, to me. Also, that crossing bar in the top picture seems to be holding the picture together; in the lower, it seems to be holding the gap (alley) open — pushing the sides apart.

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