Square framing, centered subjects and symmetry in photography - the poor relatives?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aplumpton, Jan 24, 2010.

  1. Most images we look at, whether photographic or painted, are presented in anything but a square frame. The various rules of composition and the desire to have the frame impart some impact to an image usually convince us to frame an image in a portrait or landscape format. We attempt to balance the elements within the image even though our principal subject is often set quite asymmetrically within the frame (so called Golden rule, rule of two-thirds, etc.). Placement of the main subject in the center of the frame is often frowned upon.
    Why do we reject more often than not the square frame or the centered subject in any frame format? Let's consider the square frame first. Our eyesight field is described by a “frame” that is somewhere between a square and a circle, but I think closer to the former shape. It is true that we do see things most clearly only within a very small field of view, of the order of 1 degree or arc, or less, which leads us to scan just about everything we look at, but our peripheral vision operates within a rather fuzzy and rounded square. I have been shooting recently a lot more with my Mamiya 6x6 camera than my other film cameras, and I think it is probably due in part to my desire to remove the imposition of a rectangular frame, perhaps also in some small way to the desire to photograph as I physically see, but also to explore the calm, the equilibrium and the "freedom" of a square frame, even if my subjects are not always very peaceful or devoid of anxiety.
    Why are so few images based upon a central location of our main subject in a frame? Our buildings can tell us something about this, I think. Although we tend to enjoy asymmetry in our architecture, this was not always the case and certainly not in classically taught architecture. While the great beauty of rural Medieval buildings often came from their simple lines and volumes and asymmetry of openings (the windows and doors being placed where they were most useful, not for any compositional reason), for several hundred years cookie cutter designs of symmetrical Renaissance and Palladian buildings were king, with every state building, important public or commercial structures and even personal houses bearing classical symmetrical designs, with central doorways and nicely arranged windows on either sides, with chimneys and their pots dancing in tune to the rest. Peace, solidity, equilibrium. While the change to more asymmetric design started well over a hundred years ago, it has really only been modern architecture in the last 80 or 90 years that has eschewed classical symmetry and has achieved balance in different ways, somewhat like art and photography throughout much of its history.
    Undeniably, we have been shown in our apprenticeships that asymmetry is most useful and that centering a subject is less dynamic. We have also been shown that the more common portrait and landscape framing (up to about 1 to 1:1.5, sometimes more) is more powerful than a square frame.
    Because I tend to believe that square frames, centered subjects and symmetry are more powerful than we tend to think of them, I have been using these elements in some of my photography. What do you think about them, for or against, and if you were to use them more often, where and how?
    Although I have little experience in making images in which the subject or subjects are centered, or elsewhere in using and printing a square format, they are appealing to me. A centered person may constitute a portrait where the person’s main characteristics are somewhat more freely exposed than if they were in a dynamic with other elements in the scene. Another case may be where two opposing elements or groups of objects or creatures can be placed about the center, in order to contrast their position or their character. Equilibrium in a scene can also be emphasized by the central placement of subject or subjects. Each of these can be worked within a rectangular frame. The square frame, on the other hand, can remove the imposition of horizontal effect (calm, balance, etc.) or vertical effect (nervosity, energy, etc.) and perhaps allow a freer communication of content? In any case, it may reflect more how we see. My feeling is that extreme rectangular framing (1:3 or greater) often acts more as a decorative element than as a compelling encapsulation of an image. But we are far from the square and the centered subject image, to which I look forward to your views in regard to their possible philosophical importance.
     
  2. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 05:01 p.m.
    Most images we look at, whether photographic or painted, are presented in anything but a square frame. The various rules of composition and the desire to have the frame impart some impact to an image usually convince us to frame an image in a portrait or landscape format.
    Arthur,
    The brain tends to associate anything in landscape proprtions as calm, at rest, peaceful.
    Portrait aspect ratios impart a sense of stateliness, among other tbings.
    Square aspect ratios are, well, just boring.
    That's the short answer. The long answer takes a bit longer, as you may imagine.
    Basic graphic design courses address this, as well as art appreciation courses.
    Bill P.
     
  3. I can tell you that I know of one extremely gifted photographer who agrees that square is the canvas shape of choice. Bernie, aka Foureyes, is someone whose work I've followed for years. He has a slight presence here at photo.net, http://www.photo.net/photodb/user?user_id=941594, but is also at home elsewhere on the internet. http://www.4eyesphoto.com/
    I believe it is somewhat more difficult to get the square format to work, but if you figure out how to do so, by choice of subject and framing, it is often very powerful.
     
  4. Bill P: I don't agree at all that square is boring. It's true that landscape and portrait formats have instinctive atavistic associations (which is presumably why conventional "apprenticeship" emphasises them), but those associations vary with the degree of divergence from square. Very wide landscape shape (maybe >2) induces unease. Very tall narrow portrait shape tends to claustrophobia. Square is balancce − and balance is not the same thing as boring.
    Arthur: my field of vision approximates to an ellipse or rounded rectangle, roughly 1:1·4 in aspect ratio. I always assumed that everyone's was the same as mine, but perhaps it varies from person to person?
    To your main question on shape ... I have two "modes" of photographic seeing, and I often don't consciously switch between them − they tend to follow the type of work I'm doing. The first is to compose within the viewfinder of the camera I'm using (square or rectangular). The second is to let the subject dictate the framing − a virtual frame within the viewfinder, the rest of the viewfinder being discarded at the time of exposure and cropped away in printing.
    Moving to centrality: the position of picture elements varies from case to case, I have no rules beyond what seems right for the picture at hand. However ... central placing often associates for me with full-face portraiture in which the subject engages eye contact with the camera. (Having said that, I took a square still life today which works for me).
     
  5. I actually really like the square format in many cases and when I use it, I create images that I feel work within it--never crop them except when for commercial use--I don't, they do!
    I also center my subject quite a bit, I know the theories of composition, the elements of design and the principles of art and all that stuff, but you use these to make images that work for your purposes and not to fit some rule. Knowing all of what goes into a great composition allows you to use those things to emphasize what you feel is important in an image. Square formats can create a "solid" feel and using it playfully can cause a dissonance that can work for an image or you can create incredible powerful images. When we limit ourselves to following rules or conventional wisdom, we can end up with boring work or work that only serves those conventions and not our purpose.
     
  6. Felix Grant [​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 05:47 p.m.
    Square is balancce − and balance is not the same thing as boring.
    Felix, actually a rectangle of let's say 1.3 to 1 in landscape mode imparts far more balance and stability than a square.
    These axioms have been proven to be the case over the course of centuries of art, design and perception.
    If you find a perfect square to be not boring, then you are one of the few.
    Bill P.
     
  7. Bill: they haven't been "proven" at all; they have accreted a consensus.
    The idea of a proof of anything in this context is, I think, hard to imagine.
     
  8. William, boring photographs are boring.
    Square formats are neither boring nor interesting. They are tools . . . possibilities.
    _____________________________________
    The square being perfect and symmetrical, there may be a temptation to use it to express more static feelings. Static and passive can be incredibly powerful and also exceptionally energized. What's inside the square will dictate whether that's the case. As has been said, the square can give power to a composition that knows what it's doing.
    I often default to centering things. It's something I've become more and more conscious of as I work, but not something I will necessarily work against or seek to override because of what some lemmings may be learning in art school. Rather, I will personalize it, explore it, and respect it, while also challenging myself with it.
    We may tend more to work with rectangular formats because so many of our cameras shoot that way. More technically-educated minds than mine can explain why the technology is that way. (I wouldn't say we reject the square. Instead we seem to work with what's given.)
    Symmetry has a certain character and asymmetry has a certain character. But sometimes symmetry can put me off balance or challenge me and asymmetry can ease me. Depends on the context, the content, and how it's handled.
    I use symmetry and asymmetry expressively, not because I think one is overused or underused or because Photo.netters in the critique forum are fond of telling people they shouldn't center subjects or they shouldn't have subjects facing toward the outside of the frame.
    It's knowing and being in touch with what a centered subject feels like to me (not to my teacher) and what someone facing the edge of the frame feels like in a photo. That will influence where I position my subjects and in what direction they may face.
    Arthur, I applaud you for bringing some of the science into account here. There certainly are scientific explanations to explain some responses to visual stimuli, symmetry and asymmetry included. There are also cultural reasons. Part of expressing ourselves with composition comes from understanding the science of and experiencing how various things -- straight lines, curves, tangents, parallels, convergences, etc. -- affect us and affect others.
    As I think you recognize, Arthur, something static is not inherently uninteresting. We would probably agree that attaching aesthetic judgments (like "boring") to compositional qualities or elements (like "squares") would be counterproductive to our respective creativity.
    The world is a cacophony and a harmony of static and energized, passive and active. Whatever frameworks I work within and whatever predictive results there may be from compositional elements and qualities are there to serve my expression and not to be the foundation of restrictive aesthetic judgments.
     
  9. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Most images we look at, whether photographic or painted, are presented in anything but a square frame.​

    Well when you start with that, it's hard to follow the rest. For well over half a century, people have looked at covers of records and CDs. Photographers have shot to the square for this and viewers have been looking at them. And many of them are far from boring, good photographers having the skills to make the square work in their favor. Tom Waits' Mule Variations cover is some freakin' great photography.
    I don't see much philosophy in this, it's just about learning how to make composition work in your favor, regardless of the target size and shape.
     
  10. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Rectangle = body of quadraped. Portrait = body of biped. Dogs have more peaceful relationships with humans (blood pressure going down) than they do with other dogs (blood pressure goes up). Same in reverse for people.
    I'm not sure square is the default seeing mode for humans. My impression is that up to down is less great than side to side in terms of perception.
    My favorite film camera shoots square but I've been thinking about getting a landscape back for it, for the extra exposures on 120 roll film and to have the framing fit as I look (one camera has gridlines for 645 in the finder).
    I'd be curious about the more detailed explanation of why square isn't a natural format for humans. Dogmatic and unexamined or unexplained statements make me feel the person making the statement was more indoctrinated than educated.
     
  11. I agree that what we have been told (education, composition paradigms, indoctrination,....) in regard to the centering of subjects and the square format should be taken with a grain of salt and often rejected, for our own good and for our freedom as photographers. Making composition work is a personal thing, as I think some have mentoned (Fred, very informatively, I think). Applying philosophy to personal photography is not always a direct action, and consequent upon our thoughts and state of being that may also not be directly related to photography, but I think the more freedom one has to work within the severe constraints of a two dimensional image, the more opportunity that one has to express oneself in unique ways. The square surround and the centered subject are but two (for me) interesting possibilities in that regard, and particularly the latter.
    I have tried to locate one of my references on photography and art, written by Rudolph Arnheim (a West Coast prof. of art and visual perception) and entitled "The Power of the Centre." Apparently I lent it to a friend, and that was a while ago so I do not remember some of the author's most interesting examples of art over the centuries, and why its practitioners used this subject centering element to communicate, when more conventional compositions might have been otherwise selected.
     
  12. It is funny, but it wasn't until I discovered the photo sites on the internet that I actually started hearing about all these rules--or Bokeh! I had been shooting for almost 30 years and fortunately, these things were never part of what I learned or taught. Instead, it was about the fundamentals of visual communication. The idea of line, texture, tone, balance, movement, emphasis, color, chroma etc. Of course, you studied about the Golden Mean, not as a rule but as a principle of design in nature and how/why it formed such pleasing visuals. I never heard that a square was to be avoided, but what it meant or could mean visually.
    Over the years, I certainly would hear people (not teachers tho) say not to put your horizon in the middle or don't center your subject, but when you understand what is behind the "rules" these people promoted, you knew how to use them, breaking their rules, to create an image that served your vision.
    The thing that has concerned me the most over the last 4 years that I have hung around these sites has been what appears to be a reticence to actually study these things, mostly taught in "irrelevant" art classes not photography classes, but to cling to the "rules" read in a basic book on photography.
     
  13. I am not nearly as eloquent (I think) in writing as I am visually. So. I think it best that I respond with my most recent body of work, in which I have largely concerned myself with a centralized, precisely dichotomous depiction of architecture:
    http://www.robertshultsphoto.com/robertshultsphoto/Portfolio.html
     
  14. Fred: well said.
     
  15. Arthur,
    Arnheim was never interested in the frame, square or otherwise, per se. He was only interested in how the various frame formats affected the dynamics of the center; the centric or eccentric tensions of the image content. His book is titled The Power of the Center, not The Power of the Edge. He also would not have claimed that any one feature (center, edge, frame or whatever) necessarily defined the picture of which it was a part.
    The square format affects the dynamics of the center in ways different from other formats, but that does not lead to any necessary result in the image within that format. (I can give you quotes from the book to support my claim if you like.)
    To those, particularly John A, who resent this kind of rule-suggestive discussion, or who question the value of dragging compositional bones to the surface, Arnheim says this (at the end of this same book):
    In actual practice, some artists rely on structural principles intuitively, others do so more intellectually; and it is not uncommon for one and the same person to shift his guidance back and forth from one to the other.
    ... Order ... is only a means to an end. By making the arrangement of shapes, colors, and movements clear-cut, unambiguous, complete, and concentrated on the essentials, it organizes the form to fit the content. It is, first of all, the content to which composition refers.
    ... [for example in] Michelangelo's Creation of Man ... the immediacy of the work's power depends on its being reducible to two clearly defined centers, one carrying the Creator and the other carrying the creature, and being connected by the equally well-defined vectorial axis, the channel of interaction. This simple schema is what hits the viewer's eye first, even before the subject matter of the painting is deciphered. The initial simplicity remains the guide to the complexity of the detail. At the same time, however, the basic theme, to which I have referred as the structural skeleton of the work, is also the concise visual statement of the work's essence. It is what it comes down to when all is said and done. The relation between the complexity of the fully realized work and the most abstract visual formula of its essence reveals the full range of its meaning. To this revelation the study of composition is dedicated.​
    [Emphasis added by me in that next to last sentence. -- Julie]
     
  16. Felix Grant [​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 06:37 p.m.
    Bill: they haven't been "proven" at all; they have accreted a consensus.
    The idea of a proof of anything in this context is, I think, hard to imagine.
    The art of human perception has been studued quite extensively by psychologists.
    Bill P.
     
  17. Joel Jermakian [​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 05:18 p.m.
    I can tell you that I know of one extremely gifted photographer who agrees that square is the canvas shape of choice.
    One photographer. Now there's a data base.
    Bill P.
     
  18. Julie,
    Thank you for a quote from Arnheim's text, which I mistitled in my Anglo-Saxon way as "The Power of the Centre" ("Center"), but not "The Power of the Edge".
    I must admit to introducing a bit of confusion in my choice of title, which should be read as:
    Square framing;
    Centered Subjects;
    Symmetry;
    - Three poor relatives of photography?

    Each of these little used approaches to the making of or content of an image should be considered independently, not together, except possibly as an extreme example. Your points are appreciated and my apology if my question was not stated clearly enough in the title, although I did try to differentiate two independent cases, the square, and the centered subject, in my opening text.
     
  19. John A [​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 10:27 p.m.
    The thing that has concerned me the most over the last 4 years that I have hung around these sites has been what appears to be a reticence to actually study these things, mostly taught in "irrelevant" art classes not photography classes, but to cling to the "rules" read in a basic book on photography.
    I know, right?
    Kinda makes me wish I had never wasted all that time in art and design schools. My degree means nothing, I should havs just come to these sites and learned "art".
    Bill P.
     
  20. John A [​IMG], Jan 24, 2010; 05:50 p.m.
    I actually really like the square format in many cases and when I use it, I create images that I feel work within it--never crop them except when for commercial use--I don't, they do!
    I also center my subject quite a bit, I know the theories of composition, the elements of design and the principles of art and all that stuff, but you use these to make images that work for your purposes and not to fit some rule. Knowing all of what goes into a great composition allows you to use those things to emphasize what you feel is important in an image. Square formats can create a "solid" feel and using it playfully can cause a dissonance that can work for an image or you can create incredible powerful images. When we limit ourselves to following rules or conventional wisdom, we can end up with boring work or work that only serves those conventions and not our purpose.
    John, yes, a square format can be made to work, but typically it creates more problems than it solves.
    Your use of the square format presupposes a thorough knowledge of design principles.
    And therein lies the rub.....
    Bill P.
     
  21. Robert Shults [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 02:13 a.m.
    I am not nearly as eloquent (I think) in writing as I am visually. So. I think it best that I respond with my most recent body of work, in which I have largely concerned myself with a centralized, precisely dichotomous depiction of architecture:
    http://www.robertshultsphoto.com/robertshultsphoto/Portfolio.html
    Robert, nice work. Architectural photography is a discipline unto itself, where staid, formal looks present a wonderful sense of secutity. That's where the on-center ideas come into play.
    Bill P.
     
  22. Julie Heyward [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 06:59 a.m.
    The relation between the complexity of the fully realized work and the most abstract visual formula of its essence reveals the full range of its meaning. To this revelation the study of composition is dedicated.
    [Emphasis added by me in that next to last sentence. -- Julie]
    Right? Well stated.
    Bill P.
     
  23. Julie, I was somewhat confused by your prelude, with reference to me, and then the quote. I actually don't think I "resent" anything. My concern is when someone promulgates rules, criticizes or praises someone based on them and yet has no knowledge of the underlying principles of the rule or that it is but one factor in many of good composition. Except in a few cases do I ever hear a critique given that actually could be useful to the person receiving it. Instead there is opinion, whether a rule was followed or not and too much talk about what should have been done. There seems little effort, or knowledge on how to do so, to actually meet an image where it is, to analyze what was done within it and to explain the effects of the person's decisions on us as a viewer or even how/why a suggested change might improve the image. If a site like this is supposed to be grounds for learning and improving, what are people learning and how are they going to improve? Blindly following "rules" is not going to do it. Like anything worth doing, a great amount of work must be done to do it well and much of that is making the effort to learn the basics, which includes but does not stop with how to use the camera and expose an image. If one doesn't learn the visual principles of art and design there is a huge piece missing from their arsenal. This applies to either one who is making images or one who is offering critique.
    I think the goal should be, as with the use of the camera, you don't need to think about it, you just do it. If one clings to rules, then one is mechanically going through the process rather than flowing creatively. Never realizing that a square can be used as an effective tool or that centering can create emphasis and so on, but the subject WILL be where it is SUPPOSED to be.
     
  24. John A [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 10:11 a.m.
    I think the goal should be, as with the use of the camera, you don't need to think about it, you just do it. If one clings to rules, then one is mechanically going through the process rather than flowing creatively.
    John, that's the goal, the end game.
    Like I said in my post "Interesting approach", . When you can just look at a "correct" scene and shoot it, that's when you've arrived as an artist or designer.

    Bill P.
     
  25. Gentlemen and ladies,
    I must re-read more carefully your comments, but I am more than a bit surprised that few are interested in pursuing the philosophical aspects of the square, or the centered subject, or symmetry, in photography.
    I am less interested in knowing what I should have retained in art classes (and being a "son of Mary", as Rudyard Kipling once described Canadian engineers, perhaps the retention was not enough?) about conventional use of compositional elements and the "holy" twosome of portrait and landscape framing, and more interested in how you and I might want to use these approaches in expressing your or my own work, or its possibilities.
    As we look at everything through a very small angle of vision (human construction is not perfect), how might that relate to our use of these elements, particularly the desire to center subjects to give them or the image ore meaning, or how we might wish to benefit from the natural equilibrium of the square, perhaps even as a counterpoint to the dynamics within.
    That, of course is but one small aspect of the issue. There are surely others, some of which have been described already by others.
     
  26. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 10:56 a.m.
    Gentlemen and ladies,
    I must re-read more carefully your comments, but I am more than a bit surprised that few are interested in pursuing the philosophical aspects of the square, or the centered subject, or symmetry, in photography.
    Arthur,
    Symmetry has its place in design, but that's all been covered in books on the subject.
    As I've eluded to before, the square is not a very aesthetically pleasing shape.
    That's why hipsters use the term to describe "dull".
    What's to philosophize?
    It's like bad grammar. Sure you can use it, but there are far better choices there too.
    What am I missing here?
    Bill P.
     
  27. "What am I missing here?" --William
    Challenge, intrigue, curiosity.
    When Tchaikovsky was told his Piano Concerto would not be aesthetically pleasing to most (he was told the many passages consisting of strings of bold, somewhat unyielding chords were repetitive, "boring," unacceptable, they didn't move enough), he went further with his exploration of the kind of bombast, flourishes, and holding patterns of chords that were not previously accepted. Artists feel and understand and build on aesthetics to create new aesthetics.
    Artists tend not to generically rule things out as being boring or not pleasing. They will, of course, find specific photographs and paintings boring and they will give their own thought-out reasons for doing so, or they will say it's simply a matter of taste. They may even notice patterns of what's causing stuff to be boring. Artists will often take up the challenge to create something out of what others find boring, to break just that pattern that opens their eyes rather than close their minds. That can be part of the contrivance aspect of art. While others are accepting conclusions, artists are playing with possibilities.
    I think Arthur is asking us to look at possibilities.
     
  28. "Your use of the square format presupposes a thorough knowledge of design principles"
    Not necessarily. I started shooting square pictures when I bought a square format camera. I just tend to compose to whatever format camera I'm using. I certainly don't have a "thorough knowledge of design principles". Maybe an ignorance of principles worked in my favour because I didn't know that what I was doing was "difficult". It was just another shape to fill.
    Regards
    Alan
     
  29. John A,
    I misread your first post, above. I apologize. I agree, or at least don't disagree with what you wrote in your (justifiably annoyed) second post.
     
  30. "The thing that has concerned me the most over the last 4 years that I have hung around these sites has been what appears to be a reticence to actually study these things, mostly taught in 'irrelevant' art classes not photography classes, but to cling to the "rules" read in a basic book on photography."
    --John A
    I agree with you that things we learn and study about art and our craft are not at all irrelevant and I often see people, especially in PN's critique forum, suggesting that learning will stifle their artistic sensibility. That attitude seems as nonsensical to me as it seems to be to you.
    When I talked about art school "lemmings," I certainly didn't mean anyone who goes to art school. I meant only the lemmings, who recite but don't question and who don't allow themselves to think out loud or explain themeselves. I'm talking about those who use what they learn as an end instead of a tool, those who put periods or exclamation points on discussions instead of opening them. Some simply use their credential as an art school student to justify what they say without also giving their own explanations and talking about the practical usages of these things. So I do find William's calling squares "boring" and then explaining (NOT) that by saying he went to art and design school, it's an accepted aesthetic conclusion, and his father was also an artist, totally lacking in substance. A dialogue ensues when we've internalized what we've learned, made it our own, experienced it for ourselves, and can talk about it in complete sentences. (Something, by the way, John, which you have done.) I have two degrees in Philosophy. If someone asks me if I think I have free will or whether my actions, instead, have been determined, I'd get thrown out of any philosophical discussion if I said we have free will because I studied Philosophy for eight years at universities in New York and San Francisco. I would be asked to bring something to the table. And I would.
     
  31. Arnheim talks about the visual centers in compositions. A work may have a primary center and secondary center(s); or it may have multiple primary centers that create a visual center for the work. He uses "Gourds" by Henry Matisse as an example of a work with multiple visual centers. In his book "Art and Visual Perception" he talks about different shapes in art (square, rectangle, circle, ellipse, etc.), and his conclusion is that each shape reacts differently to the visual pull of gravity (which is also related as vectors in "The Power of the Center) - and that no shape is better than another - just that they each have their own inherent qualities that need to be taken into consideration in a composition.
    The classic rules of composition are an attempt to codify and provide a short cut to some of these compositional concepts. While the rules of composition may be a stylistic convention, they are a dehydrated method of composition. Composition cannot be governed by numeric ratios so that it is reliably predictable along a geometrically perfect path. Compositional order should be through the intuition of the artist so that any relation to an underlying structural key (e.g. grid system used in the rules of composition) is replaced by a network of connections between the elements within the composition.
    There are also valuable compositional concepts found in Arthur W. Dow's book "Composition: Understanding Line, Notan, and Color." The ideas found in this book deal with lines within the composition and dark-light relationships (Notan), and how to use color to balance compositions. There are also other compositional concepts such as "MA" which is used in Japanese composition and is the appreciation of the spaces between objects (visual centers).
    When all of these different ideas are taken together, it becomes clear that you cannot declare a shape (in this case a square) as being boring as that is not an inherent quality of the shape, but of how it has been used. To put it into another context - short words in short sentences do not indicate a simple idea. Likewise, use of a square does not limit the richness of the composition, its use should reflect the richness of the mind behind the composition.
     
  32. Robert Schultz, that's a wonderful exploration. Thanks for sharing your work here. I feel organized power. Not only is there an energy to your many geometries, there is a lot of textural nuance which informs and feeds the "composition."
    Arthur, you linked to Julie Blackmon's "body of work" in the other thread and, interestingly and perhaps fortuitously, her series of photos of children in black and white -- http://www.julieblackmon.com/Portfolio.cfm?nK=311 -- are all done with a square format. It seems she is intentionally exploring, aside from the significant emotional elements of the content and lighting, the relationships of her fairly graphically composed images to her square frame. I don't really want to critique her work, but I do want to recognize that she does seem to have created individual works that hold together, both in terms of content and style, and also in terms of choosing to go with a consistent format. Format, itself (consistent or not), will be one element in a body of work, particularly if format is consciously used.
     
  33. I've seen a lot of squares out there. I do tend to think that asymmetry is a big part of the reason horizontal and vertical frames are used more. You can make a different impact with a a rectangle. I think the biggest reason though is magazines and books- the way we read. You can get great spreads with 2 vertical shots or make one brilliant 2 pager with a horizontal- without sacrificing image- where with a square you can only do 2 images (1 per page). Commercial is what really drives the camera design. Painters can make whatever they want.
     
  34. The art of human perception has been studued quite extensively by psychologists.​
    That's about the most useful thing anyone has said in this thread ;)
    But more accurately, psychophysics, the science of human perception, has been studied mainly by hard scientists (neurobiologists, physiologists, mathematicians) rather than psychologists.
    Centered subjects and square compositions are both psychophysical issues. Humans have the instincts of hunter/gatherers (I won't go into whether those instincts were evolved, or placed in us by a deity. They're just "there"). We scan scenes, continually. We only "lock" onto one subject while we plan an attack, defense, mating behavior, etc. so only a very powerful subject can hold our interest if centered. Center something uninteresting, and as soon as we make the decision that we're not going to pounce on it, run from it, care for it (in the context of our offspring) it's wrong. Centering tries to force a "lock" on something that doesn't merit it. So we transform the picture into an "object" and scan "outside" it.
    And a square isn't a "visual scene", we scan along the brush line, we don't scan up nearly as high as the width of the scene we're scanning. So square compositions aren't "right", either. If something too tall captures our attention, we ask "where's the danger from above?" Squares (and vertical rectangles, like portraits) are never "scenes", they're always "objects" within a larger scene. They automatically send the viewer scanning outside the image. Maybe this is good, depending on the nature of the image. It's a good way to tone down an overly offensive or "newsy" image.
     
  35. "I am not nearly as eloquent (I think) in writing as I am visually. So. I think it best that I respond with my most recent body of work, in which I have largely concerned myself with a centralized, precisely dichotomous depiction of architecture." (Robert)
    Very fine B&W photography, Robert. Thanks for sharing it with us. You are an architect of the image. I like how you have used the center in many of your images. It makes the image here and immediate and balances the other elements of each composition. Many of your images show also a fine equilibrium of form, lighting, and surface.
     
  36. "Centering tries to force a "lock" on something that doesn't merit it. So we transform the picture into an "object" and scan "outside" it." (Joseph)
    I guess this may be true in some cases, Joseph, but is it generic to the centered composition? I rather think not, as there are instances in art and photography where the tension of opposing sides of an image are relieved by the central balance point or null point, others where the center depicts an equilibrium or focus of an overall scene and a reconciliation of sometimes disparate outriding elements, or portraits (I am thinking of the Krupps photo in his wartime Nazi aircraft factory) where centering and upwards lighting or equal side-lighting throw a lot of emotion or impact into the centered figure. The Krupps photo wouldn't be half as chilling or emotional if he had been placed off center, and with diagonal lighting.
     
  37. "Artists will often take up the challenge to create something out of what others find boring, to break just that pattern that opens their eyes rather than close their minds. That can be part of the contrivance aspect of art. While others are accepting conclusions, artists are playing with possibilities." (Fred)
    Absolutely. That is a fine description of the artistic pursuit. Steve's comment on the richness of the mind behind the composition, and not the frame constraints, as being the essential thing, is no doubt related to that.
    At the same time, what Martin is saying about the particular case of the square and the magazine fomats and other constraints, in addition to the camera format constraints (Barnack used the motion picture frame because that was the film available for his 1912 prototype 35mm camera and he wanted also to create an"exposure meter" for motion picture films) is what the artist chooses to contend with, or not.
     
  38. The psychology of perception has been carefully studied and the popularity of certain formats has been proven through studies of large groups of individuals given choices of shapes. As an example, one study dealt with horizontal width to height ratios, and what formats people liked the most for a horizontal rectangle and which for a vertical rectangle. A ratio of 3:4 (3 high / 4 wide) was preferred for horizontal rectangles and a ratio of 5:4 (5 high / 4 wide) for vertical rectangles. Squares, circles, etc. have also been studied and the psychology of their perception is equally as interesting.
    This is the type of information that hard science! studies do not quantify and psychological studies do - and the information is every bit as pertinent to composition as the science! cited by Joseph as being so important. However, science! does not take into account likes or dislikes but only the physiological operation of the eye/brain system.
    While the "hard science!" studies and theories about "psychophysical issues" are interesting, they do not factor in the thinking portion of perception and choices made as part of learned perception. Learned perception is evidenced by ideas and their use within a composition. For example, Chinese composition is different than Japanese composition which is different than Western composition. This has nothing to do with hard science! findings, but the affect of learned aesthetics that are inherently part of the society in which one is brought up.
     
  39. My very first camera -- that I began using when I was six or seven years old (I'm not sure exactly when), produced gorgeous little square 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 black and white pictures each and every one of which I thought was purely magical (the camera store that processed the film made contact prints with a nice fat white border). I did not like my the rectangular pictures that came out of my mother's grown-up 35mm camera.
    I still find those pictures to be magical. Though it's surely partly nostalgia/sentimental value, I think it's also because I, for some reason, like a little square picture. Why the little-ness changes anything, I do not know.
     
  40. Julie, what a wonderful little story. ;-)
     
  41. Joseph Wisniewski [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 01:09 p.m.
    The art of human perception has been studued quite extensively by psychologists.
    That's about the most useful thing anyone has said in this thread ;)
    But more accurately, psychophysics, the science of human perception, has been studied mainly by hard scientists (neurobiologists, physiologists, mathematicians) rather than psychologists.
    One of the most interesting and informative threads I've read in quite a while. I suggest eveyone read it in its entirety.
    Thanks Joseph.
    Bill P.
     
  42. Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 11:29 a.m.
    "What am I missing here?" --William
    Challenge, intrigue, curiosity.
    When Tchaikovsky was told his Piano Concerto would not be aesthetically pleasing to most (he was told the many passages consisting of strings of bold, somewhat unyielding chords were repetitive, "boring," unacceptable, they didn't move enough), he went further with his exploration of the kind of bombast, flourishes, and holding patterns of chords that were not previously accepted. Artists feel and understand and build on aesthetics to create new aesthetics.
    Fred, changing patterns of chords is one thing, change the sides of a square all you want and you still end up with a square.
    Boring.
    Bill P.
     
  43. Steve Swinehart , Jan 25, 2010; 12:25 p.m.

    To put it into another context - short words in short sentences do not indicate a simple idea.
    True, but the text would be pretty boring.
    Jill says E=mc squared. That's what Jill says.
    Likewise, use of a square does not limit the richness of the composition, its use should reflect the richness of the mind behind the composition.
    You can use 'em all you want.
    Nobody else does, and for good reason. The square shape is boring, rgeardless of the compostition within the borders.
    Bill P.
     
  44. Julie Heyward [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 02:11 p.m.
    Why the little-ness changes anything, I do not know.
    Julie, that's so true. An entire hobby world of "miniatures exists due to this. Doll houses, model railroads, etc.
    "Littleness" captures the imagination in strange ways.
    Bill P.
     
  45. Bill, while I agree squares can be very boring, a bit more elaborate than only the word "boring" wouldn't hurt. Even if there is consensus, what is that consensus based on, and why can't we challenge the consensus? Even if we reach the exact same conclusion as the consensus, the reasoning and insights along the way are the real meat of this forum.
    For several posts on this forum running, I keep coming back to Mondriaan... Here he is again. A lot of his works are square, but due to their orientation, it suddenly does not seem so dull anymore. Mostly, I think, because it introduces angles more explicitely as a normal square would do. 4 identical lines in perfect horizontal and vertical directions do not have tension, diagonals do - but a square framing does not prevent one from using diagonals or other implied shapes that can introduce a tension.
    (Photographically, I never worked with a square format, and I can only imagine it's just a lot tougher to do since symmetry and squareness do easily yield rather boring compositions - but that may be my lack of experience. It just seems pretty hard to me.)
     
  46. Bill, I think I understand your point about boring squares. Recorded.
    It is perhaps a valid point of one experienced practitioner of the art. I do also have a camera club acquantance of some years ago who explained why he no longer had any interest in entering the half yearly print and slide salon of the society. "I have done everything, there is nothing else to do." He no doubt believed that, but I do not think it represented a viewpoint of a curious artist. Julie's magical encounter with 2 1/4 square contact prints probably never occurred to my acquaintance.
    Julie, just a small point about our human viewing field. I may have a particulaly round face that gives me a more squarely shaped peripheral vision than normal, so I perhaps tend to see the world in a rather even up-down, left-right scanning manner. Does that have any impact on my interest in the square format? Probably not much. I just enjoy the effect of the square, as the uninterested participant. My own interest goes beyond purely geometrical considerations.
    When you present a composition within a portait or landscape frame, a small part of that communication is already based upon that choice. You may (or may not) be saying to the viewer "here is in some way how I feel about what you find within its borders". Of course, the many elements within the frame are more important, and will be interpreted so by the viewer, but you are in a small way still conditioning the viewer to approach your photo in a particular way. That may be intended, of course.
    Whether that is important or not seemingly also depends upon the aspect ratio chosen, which if extreme can have greater impact on pre-conditioning of the viewer. Personally, there are not many images in the 1:3 or 3:1 formats that I find all that interesting. They appear often as more decorative than communicative, but I accept that if well done (varied content) they can be powerful.
    The interesting point for me about the square is that it is neutral, and leaves the content with 100% of the action.
     
  47. The square shape is boring, rgeardless of the compostition within the borders.
    Bill P.​
    Self limitation by self definition...
     
  48. Wouter Willemse [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 02:51 p.m.
    Bill, while I agree squares can be very boring, a bit more elaborate than only the word "boring" wouldn't hurt.
    Wouter, for starters, let me refer you to Joseph Wisniewski's entry earlier in this thread.
    Joseph Wisniewski [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 01:09 p.m.
    Joseph offers some wonderful insights.
    For several posts on this forum running, I keep coming back to Mondrian... Here he is again. A lot of his works are square, but due to their orientation, it suddenly does not seem so dull anymore.
    Wouter, you're right, so let's look at what's happening. To begin with, Mondrian is one of the few artists who did this kind of work.
    Why does his art work?
    First, the squares and rectangles are arranged correctly. The fact that many of the shapes are squares does not negate the composition. Mondrian uses lines to help guide you around the piece, thus adding to the composition.
    Second, because the colors are so intense that they overpower the square borders.
    Third, note that most of his works have white at some of the borders, which would blend in with the gallery walls, thus negating a "border".
    The work would then become an artistically arranged series of varios sized rectangles (some square, others not) on a gallery wall.
    Nothing square about that.
    Clever.
    Bill P.
     
  49. Steve Swinehart , Jan 25, 2010; 03:07 p.m.
    The square shape is boring, rgeardless of the compostition within the borders.
    Bill P.
    Self limitation by self definition...
    What are you trying to say here?
    Bill P.
     
  50. Jill says E=mc squared. That's what Jill says.
    Since this sentence is not indicating an idea in and of itself, but merely parroting an equation by Einstein - I fail to see how that relates to my statement that short words in a short sentence do not indicate a simple idea.
    How about this sentence. "Energy equals the mass of an object times the speed of light squared"? That is a short sentence with short words that indicates an immense idea - in fact, it helped someone win a Nobel Prize in physics...
     
  51. What are you trying to say here?​
    Exactly what I've said. You limit yourself by the definitions you set for yourself. In your case a you've defined the square as a boring compositional format - that self-definition limits your thinking and creativity. If you think a square is boring, then that's your personal self limitation.
    I don't think a square format has any inherent quality to it - and it is up to the artist to use whatever format is chosen (square included) to the benefit of the work being created.
    If you truly are an artist of any creativity, and I gave you the challenge of making an interesting painting or photograph in a square format, then you would use that format as a creative element and not an excuse to not be able to make something interesting.
    Format is NOT a barrier to a creative mind.
    The square format did not limit the work of Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers - they used it to reinforce the composition.
     
  52. Steve Swinehart , Jan 25, 2010; 03:21 p.m.
    Jill says E=mc squared. That's what Jill says.
    I fail to see how that relates to my statement that short words in a short sentence do not indicate a simple idea.
    That's not what I said.
    What I said was.......

    "True, but the text would be pretty boring."
    I hope that clears it up for you.
    Bill P.
     
  53. Steve Swinehart , Jan 25, 2010; 03:35 p.m.
    What are you trying to say here?
    Exactly what I've said. You limit yourself by the definitions you set for yourself.
    Great rhetoric for a Hollywood movie about starving artists, etc. but in reality there's a bit more to it than that. In reality, if the square shape had any real artistic potential, it would be used more often..... a LOT more often.
    The square format did not limit the work of Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers - they used it to reinforce the composition.
    Two artists, out of thousands. Not a great data base for sampling.
    I've already talked about Mondrian and his approach, and Albers used similar artistic devices.
    Novel approaches to be sure, but if the square format had merit beyond that, as I said before, it would be used more often..... a LOT more often.
    Bill P.
     
  54. I hope we can move on at some present or future point from the well-expressed and well-repeated arguments about the square (an Albatross or boring for some, intriguing opportunities for the other), while remaining open to someone who may have some other new ideas about the positive value of the square format.
    Perhaps some thoughts on the other two questions, centering of subjects in your images and the value of symmetry in photographic compositions? I think Robert gave some very nice photographic examples of both, in an achitectural or design context. You might have a look art his fine work. Maybe there are other images that seek to express emotions, held values or other communications to viewers, and that make effective use of subject centered images, or symmetry?
     
  55. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 04:33 p.m.
    I hope we can move on at some present or future point.....
    Perhaps some thoughts on the other two questions, centering of subjects in your images and the value of symmetry in photographic compositions.....
    Arthur, centering and symmetry are closely related design elements. They typically convey "importance" or"stateliness".
    The reasons for that are best left to the clinicians, suffice to say that they are powerful design tools when ued properly.
    That's why courthouses are designed that way, very symmetrical.
    When you see the President speak, notice the symmetry, the centering, and the verticals.
    Verticals are another closely related design element that has not been mentioned so far. They work the same way as symmetry and centering.
    That's why courthouses abound with columns, those imposing vertical elements that intimidate for obvious reasons.
    Bill P.
     
  56. jtk

    jtk

    The majority does things the way it does them because, being insecure (as they should, considering religious and political oppression, the struggle to survive etc), they live by "rules." The creative minority is no better than that majority, but we do need them...and we typically identify them when they break treasured rules.
    That's dramatically exemplified by the work product of public building architectural committees and their usually-third-rate architects...hired specifically to burnish and secure committee member careers by faking something "substantial" for the masses: columns, references to touristic antiquity etc. Postmodern architecture was briefly fresh, in the 70s, referencing older traditions, columns etc. Now it's trite. Trite will always be popular.
    For the same reason they avoid good architecture, public institutions automatically avoid good graphic design and, especially, good writing.
    Some are wired for rules, others are wired for inquiry. We all do some of both, most likely.
    I doubt many of the photographers "we" commonly admire are saddled to compositional rules. In fact, we reward photographers who violate them... the thrill hints at individuality, which many of us claim to treasure. Not that it's a good use of time, but someone can always find evidence to support those rules...that evidence exists for the same reason most drivers obey speed limits etc: it's not more worthwhile, but it's easier.
     
  57. Arthur,
    I have one idea that I think is interesting, but I'm not sure I can get it right in words. I'll give it a try ... (even though my brain does not work well at the end of the day).
    Unlike any other artform, the content of a photograph is always understood to continue beyond the frame. It seems to me that this lessens the value of Arnheim's claims -- and many of the traditional art school chestnuts -- because we don't build out of nothing into our chosen format. Arnheim's centers and vectors assume a closed system. Yes, a photograph is taken as a "complete" thing, but I don't think a photograph is generally truly thought of as being a closed system. Stuff "escapes." The edges become porous; space is always deep (we're never dealing with a square -- it's always a cube ...), stuff runs out of and into the frame, weakening its nature and significance and importance (to some degree; never completely).
    On the other hand, because it's a given that the world always goes beyond the frame, I think that the borders are the place (the only place?) where the photographer is purely responsible and therefore entirely present in the making, in the creation and to the viewers of the finished work; of the photograph. Compositionally, everything else is an interplay; a relationship, a give and take, but the edge is all you (or me); all the person pushing the button. In that I think that in photography, the crop, the edge, the frame is where the photographer is most purely ... there. Is felt.
     
  58. Julie, interesting thoughts. The very fact that a photo represents only an instant may also induce the photographer and the viewer to look outside the frame or the content, to look for more. Even though the frame implies some sort of closed system, which is determined by the photographer, during or after the exposure, the viewer is free to see beyond that. And isn't that what we want sometimes? I can remember being criticized at some competitions where the judge felt that the composition wasn't tightly enough bound within the frame. The eye was being led outside the frame. While I didn't agree fully he may have been right (for him, his appreciation, and probably that of others). Perhaps it is the viewers mind that needs to exit from the frame and not his compositional eye?
    I'm not sure that I appreciate all you are saying, which is perhaps my fault until I re-read your idea more carefully. In regard to a detail of that, do you not think that painting can also continue sometimes beyond the frame? One of Arnheim's examples is that of the girl pouring well water (Ingres, forget the title), in which the falling water, that is normally perceived as dynamic, appears rigid, whereas the portrayal of the girl's body shows the dynamism of her otherwise static pose and her torso and limbs, in contrast to the water. All this appears in the centre of the frame, and one is not at all conscious of the borders, or even of the surrounding scene away from the girl, her shouldered bucket and the falling water. Anything happening outside of the frame is in the viewer's head (the perception of what is really going on), although I must admit that I did not see the significance fully until explained. But it is strongly there.
    John's architectural examples are interesting, as are William's, but for different reasons (asymmetry versus symmetry). One takes more of a chance with asymmetry, unless it is the natural asymmetry perceived in nature (and perhaps in other than snowflakes). It took an English nobleman in I believe the early 19th century to show the public an alternative to the oft-repeated classical Renaissance architecture that until then had been the easy way out for architects and their clients. His asymmetric mansion was a turning point in that country, that had known little else since Christopher Wren or his predecessor.
     
  59. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Yay, Julie, but the pre-photography illustrator was working with something where the frame was also understood to continue beyond the frame, to work as identifiers (see Peterson's Guides). The frame was sometimes obliterated between birds (in a different sense than you're doing it, I think).
     
  60. jtk

    jtk

    Question re: "pre-photography illustrator". Who, for example? What do you mean by "illustrator?" Goya? Is his work "understood to continue beyond the frame?" Who is it that "understands" that "continuing?"
    I think that's only one narrow way of understanding photographs (or indeed any "art")
    just IMO: "Symmetry" and "composition" when highly obvious (rather than incidental) seem to me to hint, if not prove "trivial graphic design" more often than "significance" . That's not to say that symmetry and such devices aren't of value. As a parallel, Playboy Pink is a good color for its purpose: the everpopular goal of mass culture is the "pretty" image (ie easy to appreciate...sunsets etc), and popular culture isn't a bad thing...I love Coltrane, others prefer Miley Cyrus....
    Compositional factors I'm most aware of when dealing with an image that gives me the time to think, or to restructure when printing, include filling the frame with interest and eliminating material that's distracting... much more important than structuring the frame for symmetry, which is easy enough as an afterthought, routine. IMO cropping can be a virtue, obsession with symmetry and especially "uncropped full frame" can be stultifying.
    Like everybody else, seemingly, I'm vulnurable to trite compositional kneejerking (golden mean, wide-angle-exaggeration of vanishing point etc) but I'm not proud of that, hate it when that dominates ... it's the unavoidable outcome of lifetime of exposure to trite images ( TV, advertising, decor, popular art etc).
     
  61. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    I was thinking of the various herbals, Audubon, medical and scientific illustrations (a friend once said that all biologists learn to draw at least reasonably well, or at least used to, as that was the quickest way to document what one was seeing under the microscope). Same person had an illustrator do work for her plant breeding book. The point of that kind of illustration is that it's often less confusing than photographs as the extraneous things are eliminated. Birders even today recommend paintings illustrating bird guides to photographically illustrated bird guides. The information used to identify birds, the field markings, are clearer in paintings and tinted drawings. The illustration points at the real bird.
    No, these things aren't art in the sense that they don't exist for their own sakes, though some of them are quite lovely.
     
  62. Wow, I can't believe the depth of some of these responses! I think some are over thinking this thing.
    My favorite cameras are a Rolleicord and Mamiya C330, both square format. I do my own darkroom work and interesting enough, I find myself printing square format probably 90% of the time, with a large portion framed full format, no cropping (Probably from years of 35mm slides). When developing 35mm negatives, I never crop them square.
    IMHO, I do not think of these square format photos as symmetrical compositions. Quite the contrary, I find myself using the rule of thirds most of the time. The rule of thirds still works whether the format is square or rectangular. I believe that most of my images are balanced, but not symmetrical as would be implied by many of the comments posted here.
     
  63. Rebecca,
    Yes, but ...
    In a photograph, there is no ground, no limit -- lateral, vertical or on the z-axis (near/far) to the world that is prompted in the viewer's mind by that photograph. In nonphotographic images, there is always a ground, a limit, a boundary beyond which there is no more.
    To use a language analogy, in nonphotographic images, if you look closer you don't see more words -- you see the page/substrate on which the words are made. In photography, if you look closer, you just see more, smaller "words" and if you look even closer, you see smaller words and on and on. There is no substrate; the meaning, which meaning (the "words"; which "words") of a photograph are determined by that arbitrary; chosen (not required) xyz axis/scale location in which the photographer puts you, the viewer.
    You, the viewer, are always aware of that unlimited-ness; of the arbitrariness of the chosen location in time/space (it could have been otherwise [red alert to all students of the question of free will!]). You the viewer, could have been "put" anywhere else -- lateral, vertical, near/far, zoom in/out -- and there still would have been a picture. I don't think this sense of outside-the-frame ungrounded space/time happens in nonphotograhic images.
    Arthur,
    I know exactly the illustration from Arnheim that you are talking about (the woman pouring water) and I cannot find it. It's not in my (New, "completely rewritten") version of The Power of the Center, but I had (and read very closely) his original version. Maybe the water illustration was in that one. I also have numerous other Arnheim books scattered about the house in such a way as to make them impossible to find when I want them (much cursing has ensued ...).
    One last comment on square-ness: trying to find a more or less random selection of photos as a sample of crop choices, I've flipped through Szarkowski's Looking at Photographs. In that book, the three images most nearly square (none are exactly square) are Diane Arbus's Pro-War Parade (1967) [14 3/4 x 14 1/2], Harry Callahan's Eleanor, Port Huron, (1954) [6 5/8 x 6 1/2], and Man Ray's Rayograph, (1922) [10 7/8 x 11 3/4]. I don't find anything in common with these three pictures resulting from the frame format.
     
  64. Loren Sattler , Jan 25, 2010; 11:04 p.m.
    Wow, I can't believe the depth of some of these responses! I think some are over thinking this thing.
    Really ? Ya think?....................
    Bill P.
     
  65. Rebecca, when I look at some black and white images I think of illustrations, in the sense of the image being incomplete, devid of its natural colour range. It is acknowledged I think how that puts emphasis on other elements, somewhat like the details in your wildlife illustrations example. The B&W image does possess other attributes that the illustration doesn't, if for example we agree with Julie's distinction of substrate existence or absence.
    Julie, the painting of Ingres "La Source" is Figure 114 on page 153 of my softbound edition of Art and Visual Perception by Arnheim. The abstract pattern within this figurative painting and its elements are each fascinating, handled with the artist's considerable experience, like the mature works of a music composer. It is also a fairly centered image.
    The probability of finding paintings or photographs that are only close approximations to the square shape is quite high, although the use of the square frame is limited. In photography, the 4x5 camera and the 8x10 print size developed for it and for the larger view camera are more square than the 35mm frame. I do not know what the aspect ratio of movie theatre screens are, but they are likely close to the newly popular flat panel TV screens of 16:9. I think that the slightly off square format of say 4 1/2 x 5 or 4 x 5 is enticing, somewhat like the square format. It sort of annoys me that most digital picture frames are in the 4:3 or 16:9 format, reducing the size of screened portrait type images.
     
  66. Julie Heyward [​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 07:04 p.m.
    Unlike any other artform, the content of a photograph is always understood to continue beyond the frame.
    Julie, nothing could be further from the truth.
    To begin with, there's nothing saying that a photograph is ALWAYS understood to extend beyond the frame.
    Also, There is also nothing saying that this concept is unique to photography.
    Bill P.
     
  67. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 06:57 p.m.
    I doubt many of the photographers "we" commonly admire are saddled to compositional rules.
    Really?
    John, they all follow the rules. They do it in very subtle ways, but the rules are all there.
    Bill P.
     
  68. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 04:33 p.m.
    I hope we can move on....
    Arthur, I tried................

    Bill P.
     
  69. Loren Sattler , Jan 25, 2010; 11:04 p.m.
    IMHO, I do not think of these square format photos as symmetrical compositions. Quite the contrary, I find myself using the rule of thirds most of the time. The rule of thirds still works whether the format is square or rectangular.
    Yes it does. The rule of thirds works in portrait mode also.
    I believe that most of my images are balanced, but not symmetrical as would be implied by many of the comments posted here.
    Yes they are balanced, and a square format should never imply symmetry.
    There is far more to the art of compostition than most people are aware of.
    Bill P.
     
  70. The symbology of the subject can often be intentionally centered in the composition, while at the same time not neccesarily being the center of immediate interest of the subject painted or photographed. Like in the painting The Census at Bethlehem by Breughel, with the almost insignificant wooden wheel that's intentionally placed almost straight in the middle of the composition and of all the action that's taking place in the painting ( with Maria entering the town as just one of the many figures, not any more important than the next ). The wooden wheel representing, by being placed in the middle of it all, the wheel of life, of fate, of history unfolding...
    "In nonphotographic images, there is always a ground, a limit, a boundary beyond which there is no more." Julie
    Painting, even figurative non abstract painting, used to have clearly defined borders imposing a limit to the subject without not many hints of things "taking place" outside of the frame. But to that view of the frame being the limit of the subject - or differently put, that the subject could only relate to itself within the strict borders of the frame - came an end a long time ago. I don't remember the name of the painter or the painting that first broke most consequently with those "rules of the frame", but it's a streetscene where a man or a woman is cut in half by its borders ( like in a streetphotograph for example ) suggesting context and subject beyond the frame, which at the time the painting was made, was revolutionary.
    Ofcourse that painting was / is "photographic", in more abstract examples I can see a truth to this boundary beyond which there is no more, but this can be just as much evident in photographic examples that go more to the abstract but which are nevertheless photographic ! So perhaps with nonphotographic you meant abstract, or did you mean every work that simply isn't a photograph ?
     
  71. Rebecca Brown [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 10:08 p.m.
    No, these things aren't art in the sense that they don't exist for their own sakes, though some of them are quite lovely.
    Art is something that is done well, like if you cook well. - Andy Warhol
    Bill P.
     
  72. Phylo, I like the example of Breughel where the centered object is there but subdued until you realise that it is a symbol of life, quite the opposite of strong centered subject images as, say, Arnold Newman's (I think I have the right person) famous and somewhat surrealistically coloured photo of Krupp in the midst of his World war II factory, or the Louvre's Ingres painting that I mentioned above.
    Your example of placing subjects partly outside a frame is one way of decentering of the interest or more specifically of partly abolishing the frame, but I think there are also other ways that can happen. One is physical, in using picture elements and lines of interest to direct attention outside of the frame (creating mystery or another effect), the other is mainly mental, in which the photographer's subject suggests other things that are not physically present (anxiety, hope, drama, etc.) but which may be felt by the viewer, that is, by the continuation of the image in the viewer's mind. The Ingres image (painting "La Source") is an example, but abstract images can also do this.
    I think that the non photographic images referred to originally by Rebecca and Julie were illustrations, where the substrate is more apparent in some such cases than in more "opaque" painting methods or photography.
    Bill, I hope I wasn't too "autocratic" about the direction of discussion. I am only one participant. A free discussion that touches on various topics can be quite valuable, as the discussion direction you and others (and myself) are engaging in, in regard to composition and the (albeit necessary) imposition of the frame in photography. The discussion is also hitting the topics of subject centered images (re Phylo) and the question of the importance or not of symmetry within any chosen frame.
     
  73. Julie, I appreciate your thoughts on the subject of it being somewhat in a photograph's nature to transgress the frame, though I think Phylo makes a good point about the limit of applying that to abstract photographs.
    With recognizable content, I experience a difference between the imaginative content of a painting spilling outside the frame (or splashing, as the case may be) and the part of the real world left out when I decide what to frame with my lens.
    The difference, as I see it: A (non-abstract) photograph excludes what's there and a painting may suggest what's not there.
    In this respect, photography may be a little more like sculpture than painting. The sculptor chisels away the marble that's there to create his statue. That discarded marble will be some part of the finished sculpture. It will always be what was taken away. It is perhaps more "hands-on" than what I do with my lens as a photographer, but what I've taken away, as I've said before, is influential to how I go about framing things with my camera and photographing and to how I think about the subjects of my photographs and the photographs as objects themselves.
    I don't find this to be the be-all and end-all of discussions about photographs. So I understand what John is saying when he says it's only one way to understand photographs. I wouldn't qualify it, as you do John, by saying it's a "narrow" way. It's a way to understand and think about photographs. It's an aspect, like any one quality or characteristic. I find it motivational and influential.
    This NOT, the stuff of the real world that framing excludes, is part of why I place importance on transcendence. That doesn't just apply to photographs. For me, it can apply to any art form. In photographs, transcendence is at play at least to some degree, literally, because of what is not there. The real stuff outside the frame, in my periphery and beyond*, is part of what I mean when I say "there may be more here than meets the eye" and also when I consider that the photograph can often be about more than it's material subject.
    *I exclude what's outside the frame. I also exclude things that may be part of the subject. When I make a portrait, I am aware I am leaving some of the person out.
    ____________________________________
    There's a difference between a critical in-depth discussion and "over-thinking". There's something about Philosophy and a fair amount of thinking that seem to go hand in hand.
     
  74. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 26, 2010; 10:56 a.m.
    Bill, I hope I wasn't too "autocratic" about the direction of discussion.
    Arthur, not at all. I'd like to see these discussions point people in a direction rather than become obtuse classroom lectures on some myopic phase of a design element.
    We could cover a lot more ground that way, and I think it would benefit people more to keep answers short and to the point.
    Also, I have very limited time to devote to this type of thing, and I suspect many other do also.
    These are some of the reasons I keep my posts short and on point.
    It's also great artistic discipline.
    Bill P.
     
  75. The great thing about PN is that it has something for everyone. I enjoy participating in the Casual Conversations forum sometimes as well, especially when I don't have time to think carefully and thoughtfully articulate my own ideas.
     
  76. jtk

    jtk

    Arthur, I know you'll correct me if I'm missing something, but this seems to be the heart of your OT:
    "The square frame,...can remove the imposition of horizontal effect (calm, balance, etc.) or vertical effect (nervosity, energy, etc.) and perhaps allow a freer communication of content?...may reflect more how we see. My feeling is that extreme rectangular framing (1:3 or greater) often acts more as a decorative element than as a compelling encapsulation of an image"
    Obviously, a) the Arthur Plumpkin responses to these factors are your own and b) because they're yours, I believe they're significant and have been reflected upon.
    Personally, I don't find shape of frame a tool as much as called for by circumstances: eg. something about a scene/scenario or having to do with a client's requirements.
    I'm not much interested in landscape photography, but it seems that in my Southwest the terrain can sometimes best be responded to with panoramic techniques.
    I've seen remarkable portraits that are mere skinny vertical slices of semi-profiles (one eye/nose/lips). I've seen equally remarkable skinny horizontals that featured pairs of eyes.
    It seems obvious that fine photographers do what's best for their own work, using the tools that make them or their clients happiest. In film that was as often 6X6, 35mm, or 4X5/8X10 proportion. Wedding photographers mostly abandoned 6X6, finding 645 very rewarding, better for the sales (where client quantifies "compelling") of many of them until they (mostly) switched to APS-C ...3 formats...."practical" factors shouldn't be forgotten...I'm not so much equating "weddings" to "art" as I'm pointing out the ability of good photographers to adapt image to technology, and I do think there are infinitely more fine wedding photographers than "art" photographers despite my personal dislike for commercializing the fantasy.
    We can just as reasonably choose to relax and work within a format or use the format as an active device, the way you've suggested, without too much concern ...unless our "theories" dominate us :)
    For me, your "compelling encapsulation" is one rewarding way to consider images . I'd be happy with that kind of response to some of my own photos, but "puzzling" or "puzzling and compelling" can be better because it may help me reflect and explore. I prefer doubts and exploration to theories and answers.
    Despite their seeming differences, an autistic person, a social isolate, an authoritarian type, or someone oriented mostly to touristic images and decoration all might actively avoid or dislike "compelling" due to pathology, lack of social ease (uptight, egoist, incompetent), desire to control, or desire for easy acceptance (emphasis on "pretty").
     
  77. Wow, I can't believe the depth of some of these responses! I think some are over thinking this thing.​
    That's kindly understating the obvious.
     
  78. @John Galyon
    I think some are over thinking this thing.​
    *wondering why John thinks he knows how much anybody else is thinking*
    Nope. Just checked the gauge on the Think-O-Meter and its comfortably below the red zone. I wonder if you are perhaps under thinking? Please check your own Think-O-Meter.
    If what you really mean is that we are speaking (writing) too much about "this thing," please explain. That could be a valid claim, but not without an explanation of some sort. That's what we're doing here. Try these tips on how a philosophical exchange works (this is the Philosophy of Photography forum, informal though it may be):
    To speak is to speak to someone, to answer for his ignorance, lacks, destitution. To speak is also to speak in the place of another; when one speaks to someone one formulates one's own insights in his words, one puts one's own words in his mind. When the other is there and able to speak for himself, he listens to the thoughts one formulates for him, and assents to them or contests them or withdraws from them into the silence from which he came. -- Alphonso Lingis
    When a post to this forum doesn't even attempt to explain his/her position, I am inclined to think that the poster is either too chicken or too lazy to even try.
     
  79. Hey John Galyon, you crack me up. I've read innumerable of your posts in other forums over the years. You've gone on for paragraph after paragraph at a time, sometimes over the course of days, with sometimes quite tortuous logic, word after word and example after example, on such topics as PN ratings and other good stuff in the off-topic forum. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. You just gave me quite a laugh. Hypocrisy, a funny, but frustrating, trait ;-)
    Here are just a couple of examples:
    [Warning: you will never get the time back you spend reading these . . .]
    http://www.photo.net/off-topic-forum/00Vad6
    http://www.photo.net/off-topic-forum/00VRzY
     
  80. John Galyon [​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 02:46 a.m.
    Wow, I can't believe the depth of some of these responses! I think some are over thinking this thing.
    That's kindly understating the obvious.
    John, Arthur suggested that we move on, I tried to move this thread forward, but to no avail.
    Bill P.
     
  81. Julie Heyward [​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 06:47 a.m.
    I wonder if you are perhaps under thinking?
    When a post to this forum doesn't even attempt to explain his/her position, I am inclined to think that the poster is either too chicken or too lazy to even try.
    Julie, why don't you tell us when enough is enough?
    Bill P.
     
  82. Never mind.
     
  83. The question of whether any philosophy forum results in too much thinking is not totally different from suggesting that exercise may be an inefficient means of gaining improved muscle form. Original thinking and thoughtful consideration of various aspects of any subject are seldom the causes of failure to resolve a question or failure to gain some enlightenment on a subject of interest. Sure, sometimes a long text requires effort to work through and may contain a little of repeated or redundant thought, but very short reponses sometimes appear too glib or at best incomplete (just like images can also be incomplete, or unsatisfying). Words are a useful tool for thought.
    What I enjoy about this sort of forum, or those of 'Casual Conversations" or "Off-topic", amongst others, is the opportunity to exchange useful thoughts with other thinking persons. Sometimes it is simply fun to play with the vocabulary or with humorous aspects of life, which also involves thinking (believe it or not), as within the mixture of humorous and more serious topics in the "Off-topic" forum. A other times, forums like this one allow us to engage with others in objective discussion and to wrestle with our understanding of ideas and concepts important to photography. Over-thinking? I doubt it.
    My interest in seeing some discussion on the question of images with subjects strongly centered in the frame, and the other question of the value or not of symmetry in photographs, and the effect of these two approaches or "designs" to evoke certain feelings (emotional, intellectual,...) of the viewer and to enhance or detract from the perceived "power" of an image, was not to diminish the discussion of the square format (the third sub-theme of this post), but simply to engage the thoughts of others on two sub-themes that had not been discussed very much to this point (sorry about the paragraph length, I don't have the time to re-organize it).
    I am wondering if those two points might not be better addressed in stand-alone posts?
    In the meantime, I am happy to wait and see if others may wish to express their thoughts or further thoughts on them here, now that the two questions have been formulated.
     
  84. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 10:09 a.m.
    The question of whether any philosophy forum results in too much thinking is not totally different from suggesting that exercise may be an inefficient means of gaining improved muscle form.
    Arthur, too much exercise results in overtraining.... fatigue, injury, illness. In a word, counterproductive.
    Bill P.
     
  85. Bill, are you not being a bit too concerned with the effectiveness of the example, and less with the intent of the discussion at hand? It's sort of like when hearing a politician start his speech by saying "My fellow citizens,..", someone leaps up with the question of whether we are all "fellows" or not.
    For me, that is a waste of time. In any case, if the gentleman who thought we were expressing too much thoughts in this forum really thinks so, he is not obliged to believe otherwise and he can simply leave te discussion. I have seen a lot of really good discussions torpedoed by that sort of intervention.
     
  86. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 10:18 a.m.
    Bill, are you not being a bit too concerned with the effectiveness of the example, and less with the intent of the discussion in hand?
    Arthur, several days ago you seemed to think that we were done with this "framing" thing.
    Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 25, 2010; 04:33 p.m.
    I hope we can move on....
    As you know, I tried to move the discussion forward, to no avail.
    Bill P.
     
  87. Bill, thanks for your aid in that regard.
    Let's simply give it a bit of time and see whether those two sub-themes (centered subjects and symmetry in art and photography) related to the philosophy of visual communication are of interest or not, and whether it might be better at some time that I initiate separate and more focussed posts.
     
  88. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 10:42 a.m.
    Bill, thanks for your aid in that regard.
    Let's simply give it a bit of time.....
    Sure thing, Arthur. Considering the importance of symmetry and centering in art, graphic and architectural design through the ages, I'm surprised nobody else has picked up on these topics.
    Bill P.
     
  89. Arthur,
    As you may know, I am a compositor. In most of my non-bird composites, I rely heavily on symmetry and/or repetition. But I use both (symmetry and repetition) specifically to "break" the photographs -- to play with the viewer by making something that can't be what it appears to be. As an example, you might look at my Nowhere series -- (which, to my annoyance, almost nobody ever "gets" unless I point out the repeats).
    This one (first link below) is not very obvious; find the center of the image and then look for lateral symmetry and/or vertical symmetry in the placement of identical (the same) leaves or sticks. The trick is that I overlaid the repeats onto non-repeats:
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere19.htm
    The next one is more obvious and therefore should be easier for you to find the symmetry (surely you can't miss it!):
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere47.htm
    And in this next one, I'ver repeated everything in all four quadrants so it's blatant:
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere26.htm
    Here are more:
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere08.htm
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere09.htm
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere12.htm
    Compare to repeats without symmetry in these two (nonsymmetrical) examples. In these, I use the same leaf or stick or whatever over and over and over again (usually at least three times):
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere25.htm
    http://www.unrealnature.com/Nowhere33.htm
    To repeat what I said at the start, I use symmetry to break reality. However, the fact that people don't "get it" makes me wonder if they notice the symmetry -- or maybe the deliberate ordinariness of the image content (my favorite material -- earthly detritis) isn't enough to get a slow look.
     
  90. Julie,
    Great. Sometimes the more interesting examples are the more subtle ones. One reason too why I personally like abstract paintings on my walls as I do not tire from re-visiting the paintings at different times to appreciate something within the composition that I previously missed, or something that feeds my thoughts or feelings at that time. Your objective of "breaking" the photograph is one good use of symmetrical, yet not too easiy detected, elements.
    I think that in some scenes involving human or animal presence the symmetry can also be used to play with the viewer, to induce him or her into thinking the everything is balanced, when other elements show that it is not. Asymmetry of colour or textures are also put into symmetrical compositions for much the same reason, or chiaroscuro effects can be used in more graphical B&W or colour compositions to unbalance the perceived symmetry.
    The triangular symmetry of the three characters (mother-father-child) in one of Picasso's blue period paintings, titled (I think) "The drowning", uses symmetry to unite a family at beach side where the message is one of a tragic event and not a balanced one. I like that, because it is part of life, but my sister-in-law said unequivocally that she could not live with that reproduction, when I suggested she temporarily exchange it and other reproductions for some of their own.
     
  91. Fred, you crack me up! Why is it that you Fred, are the only one who took personal offense to what I said and felt the need to mock and name call? I'll resist the urge to react in kind and will instead send you a personal e-mail instead.
     
  92. Arthur,
    Irving Penn's non-commercial (and commercial, but I'm more interested in the non-) work is always working strongly off of the pull to vertical-axis symmetry. You could call it very strict balance, but I think the way it always pulls to that central vertical moves it beyond balance and toward (or against -- the tension is coming from) symmetry.
    Here's a link to some of his stuff:
    http://www.masters-of-photography.com/P/penn/penn.html
     
  93. [Double post.]
     
  94. Julie, your own work, looked at from the perspective of symmetry and repetition, is mesmerizing. I have often been stymied by my own feelings about the roles of titles, but I wonder if a simple change in title for the series from "Nowhere" to "Repeats," "Reciprocation," or even "Iteration" might not accomplish a contextualization for the viewer that would provide a nudge to help the viewer "get it" assuming you are at all inclined to help her along.
    There is a sense of fugue in some of this work. That repetition mirrored and disguised, echoing, exiting, entering.
    It seems almost beyond the discussion of symmetry as either energizing or static. Yours seems not just a use of symmetry . . . as a tool . . . as in the Penn links (and I haven't read whether Penn himself utilized that central vertical theme with a great amount of intention or was naturally inclined toward it for whatever reasons) . . . as much as an exploration of it.
    So, of course you use symmetry, but not just as an accompaniment or guide or qualification or even substrate. It is, in a sense, your subject. Perhaps the determined "ordinariness of the image content" supports the symmetry as subject more than the other way around. It is thoughtful work (and I am comfortable using that as a compliment). It is, indeed, contrived, as so much great art is.
     
  95. HTML clipboard
    Bill: I've hesitated to write this, in case it seems like an attack. Please believe that it is not; I have been impressed by your thoughtful comment on a range of things in other cases, and question this time because I think it relevant & important.
    Arthur: I am also conscious that I have contributed little useful to discussion of your questions, and am now wandering off on what should really be a separate thread.
    To both of you, apologies in advance if they are needed.
    In almost all of your posts to this thread, Bill, you call on us to abandon examination and exploration of "rules" and accept them without question on the word of received authority in one form or another: psychologists who have studied thing, people who have learned things or taught (I put my hand up; I'm guilty) them on a degree course, the consensus of practitioners, and so on.
    But if we accept without question, there can be no art and no philosophy. Even if the things we are discussing and questioning are true, that doesn't exempt them from critical examination; art and philosophy arise from the willingness to challenge received wisdom, from the willingness to risk mistakes in the interest of possibly opening up something new, from the refusal to simply be told what is true without testing its truth.
    With respect, your efforts to "move the discussion forward" have been efforts to move forward in acceptance of your own view, not to move forward in open examination of Arthur's questions. In a philosophy forum, questions (even if I have been able to contribute nothing useful to their exploration) are lifeblood. In my own personal opinion, the same is true of art – in fact, there is a case for considering whether that might be one difference between art and craft.
     
  96. Fred,
    Thank you for those insightful observations [sounding cool and calm, when in fact I am smiling from ear to ear]. "Fugue" is exactly right -- and I had not thought of it before. And/or "motif" development (and I won't risk revealing my musical ignorance by anything further).
    Penn was a studio photographer. When he did portraits of primitive people in remote lands, he took a portable studio with him. The balance within his frames (many of which are square ...) is incredibly perfect. I'm grateful to Arthur for making me look for symmetry because I had not previously noticed how relentlessly he uses the central vertical.
    [I don't want to affect what Felix has said to Bill by commenting on it but I must say that I think his post is beautifully stated.]
     
  97. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Julie, one reason people may not see what you're doing is that there are too many CGI armies out there in Movieland, so we learn not to pay too much attention less the frame of the movie turn into fractals.
     
  98. Penn's use of the center, and of the central vertical, is quite a good example of the force of centered subjects. He shows also that it is not necessary to center all elements of a scene in the center, as in his NY theatrical group in the link to his work that Julie provided, but to use the center of the image as a sort of pivot, or center of gravity, of what is depicted. This is much in line with part of what Newman discusses in his book "The Power of the Center" (I am trying to relocate the darn thing as it is so easy to forget what one has read).
    I think I mentioned that I consider the centering of image elements as an obvious way to suggest an equilibrium or stabiity in the elements contributing to making an image. I particularly like the possibilities to compare and especially to contrast these various elements (figurative elements or masses of colour or form) of the scene within this otherwise suggested balance or equilibrium. Thus, by opposing these elements within the centerd and apparently symmetrical or balanced scene we can create tensions that speak of real or imagined emotions or physical compositional conflicts.
    By chance, I tuned into the on-going CBC Ideas series last night (old fashioned radio, and a network program I almost had the chance to direct a part of some several decades ago, when as a young and disillusioned engineer with some USA college radio training I was interviewed by CBC program director Lester Sugarman - but that is irrelevant, if not another one of my cases of placing second in competitions....) to hear a program sited in Oxford and Banbury (UK), in which some of Stephen Hawkin's physics colleagues were interviewed on the subject of the nature of time and space. One or two spoke of a concept that time is simply a human construct, and that everything exists "now", or that there are many "nows", throughout history, just as there is a continual progression of space around us.
    A bit much for this humble mind to assimilate, but it did have the effect of relating my thoughts to our discussion of centered subject images.
    Perhaps the power of the center is to suggest "now", the immediate. Of course, we "know" that the photograph is an instant in time, but we are being told a story by the photograph that defies that time limitation. Perhaps we equate in our mind the centering of image elements with a question of time and space, and the use of this astuce gives us the oportunity to say that "this is now". This IS important, or this represents an equilibrium of everything around the centre, a personally imposed center of gravity, of thought. Whatever the conflict of picture elements that we (and I favor) have brought to rest about the center line or point.
     
  99. At one time the square format ruled. A lot of that work fell during the years between the end of the press camera era and the advent of 35mm, when square format went from small to medium, and from the field largely into the studio. Unfortunately, a lot of people rigidly associate the format with work from that era. There's plenty of excellent work done with the square format. There's a guy who crops his view work (landscape) into the square format. Photographers like Plachy, Robert Adams, Lee Friedlander, Christenberry, Kenna, and many others still use the square format to make world-class imagery. I loved the square format, and still own a couple of bodies and lenses, but haven't used them in years.
    __________________
    The great majority of all photographs have been and continue to be made with the (obvious) subject in the center of the frame. We reject (or embrace) the centered subject because it is perhaps the most salient and recognizable trope of the snapshot style. Some distance themselves from it because it is a signifier of amateur work. Others (myself included) use it, among other things, as a key and useful meme for easing into the viewer's mind. It is a powerful part of the field within the frame, one that can be played with to shift the relative weights of what is depicted.
    __________________
    The normal human field of view is a stretched butterfly shape, unlike any format.
    ___________________
    On symmetry, we have the Middle Eastern school, which adheres to highly codified, often breathtakingly complex mathematically founded abstractions. Symmetry (and asymmetry) is something few photographers understand, let alone use. Overused, it appears painfully contrived, subtly used, as in Julie's case, few detect it. In Western Art, one of the keys to (a)symmetry is the way it is broken.
    ___________________
    Arthur, this is really three topics, each worthy of its own post. In spite of the usual distractions, a good post. Thank you.
     
  100. Rebecca,
    You're probably right. And don't get me started on Photoshop jokes (which I have to admit I like even though I hate how they distort people's understanding of the amazing power of Photoshop).
    Arthur,
    I think there is a real danger of mistaking the "center" for a genuine phenomenon in and of itself. (I am fairly certain you don't like my more airy fairy writing, so I will try very hard to keep this earthbound.) I think you're getting into a circular argument when you suggest that the center *of itself* has power. I think that "center" is the same as, not something separate from, what holds our attention. I know, you're saying, "Well, duh!" but give me a minute.... Two examples:
    First example:
    Think of compositionally bad photos (or any kind of bad picture). They are unbalanced or balanced but uninteresting or they collapse to one side or the other. The piece of paper on which they are printed still has a center, but it's a meaningless geometric location IF our center of attention and balance around that center of attention isn't relevant, affected by or USED by the maker of the picture. In other words 1) the viewer's attention determines the center (the center is a consequence of attention, not vice versa), and 2) how the photographer uses our (his and the viewer's) attention reference that physical spot on the piece of the paper makes (or fails to make) the picture work. Makes the center work. In other words, the center doesn't gain its power until and unless the photographer works with/to it. If attention is not working with/around/to the center of the image, then that particular physical center does not have power -- you just have a bad picture. People mentally frame/center their interest elsewhere -- where their attention makes its center.
    Second example:
    Pick one of the Penn pictures that is centered on the central vertical. Then imagine that all of the image content was moved an inch or two to the left or right (off center). Does the center of the image remain the center or do you visually move with the content, visually reframe to the content which is now not aligned with the image center/frame (and now have a "bad" photograph)? In other words, our attention "makes" the center. It's not "there" before we (maker or viewer) find it, feel it, and use it in concert with, as part of our compositional dynamic.
    [Luis, you posted while I was wrestling with this post. I agree with a lot of what you've said.]
     
  101. "I think that "center" is the same as, not something separate from, what holds our attention."
    Julie, that is somewhat like saying the centre (or center) is what "interests us" within any image. For me the centering of picture elements has its power or force only if used by the artist or photographer in a specific compositional way, to "incite" a reaction from the viewer. There may be absolutely nothing in the centre of the frame and other elements are simply referenced to that point or (normally vertical) line or limited space, or there may be all or a part of the elements of the image. That doesn't matter, it's the whole message of the image that does.
    I find your text fairly easy to follow, at least where it remains grammatically precise, so that is no problem. The theories of the British physicists I mentioned are much more "airy fairy" to the uninitiated (few of us are mathematical physicists). But I find that their rejection of time, and the concept that everything is a multitude of "now" incidents occurring simultaneously (the moment of Julius Caesar's death, or Obama's rather fine speech yesterday), time and space in the same reality, is quite fascinating. It resonates for me in terms of what I think about the use of the centre of the frame, to give equal force to then and now, and to create a photographic reality that ignores the fact that the photo was made in some other instant of time (As an engineer, used to conceiving and measuring things on a time basis, I still consider time in the traditional and not relativistic sense).
    I am not sure I am explaining my concept of centre very well, or even that I have reconciled all it may imply in my own mind, but I love the psychological and philosophical implications of the dynamism that can be created in a photo by the apparent centration and symmetry of the elements of an image and the contrary evidence (tension, etc) of the juxtaposition of unbalanced elements of the "now" image, whether chromatic, form-based or emotionally charged.
     
  102. Luis G:
    Arthur ... In spite of the usual distractions, a good post. Thank you.
    And in spite of my own nonparticipation − seconded.
     
  103. I think this is somewhat similar to what Julie already said but the way I see it, the photograph = the subject, and as such it can't really place itself in the center of itself. For me subjects aren't placed in the center to put emphasis on them being the subject, it's rather that the center is used in the making of the photograph / image as the subject.
    00Vcn6-214915584.jpg
     
  104. Felix Grant [​IMG], Jan 27, 2010; 06:07 p.m.
    Bill: I've hesitated to write this, in case it seems like an attack. Please believe that it is not; I have been impressed by your thoughtful comment on a range of things in other cases, and question this time because I think it relevant & important.

    In almost all of your posts to this thread, Bill, you call on us to abandon examination and exploration of "rules" and accept them without question on the word of received authority in one form or another: psychologists who have studied thing, people who have learned things or taught (I put my hand up; I'm guilty) them on a degree course, the consensus of practitioners, and so on.
    Hi Felix,
    Let me clarify.
    I by no means want anyone to adhere blindly to the rules.
    My point is directed to those who think that the rules are there to annoy them, and serve no other purpose except to satisfy some college professor.
    These are the people who either state flatly or otherwise imply "Rules? I don't need no stinkin' rules!" when in fact they have no idea what those rules are or why they are needed.
    The supposed romance of being a "Rebel without a cause" may hold water on these boards, but in the real world of serious photography, the big kids know the rules before they attempt to add to that body of knowledge.
    Here's an example, form this website.
    I was roundly chastised by a member who bragged about his quitting two art schools because the professors sounded like me, meaning that they tried to teach him the fundamentals of artistic design. He seemed to wear his rebelliousness as a badge of honor.
    Rules? He didn't need no stinkin' rules either.
    So once again, I do not want anyone to blindly follow the "rules".
    I just try to point out that you can save a lot of time by following the map instead of driving around in circles for hours.
    Here's another way of looking at it.
    The next time you're on a commercial flight, ask the pilot if he's self taught.
    Bill P.
     
  105. Luis G [​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 07:06 a.m.
    At one time the square format ruled. A lot of that work fell during the years between the end of the press camera era and the advent of 35mm, when square format went from small to medium, and from the field largely into the studio.
    Luis, in the grand scheme of things, that's a very short amount of time.
    Velvet paintings of Elvis ruled for a while, too.
    Gimmicks will always come and go.
    Innovation comes and stays. That's the difference.
    Bill P.
     
  106. Bill,
    I do agree that "I don't need so stinking rules" is not constructive.
    On the other hand, I can't see any sign of that approach in Arthur's question?
    His approach was the philosophical one: to examine the prevalence of the rules and wonder about them − and about might be gained by diverging from them. Your response, a flat assertion, was in the opposite direction.
    I've flown with some good self-taught pilots ... but I do take your point. Photographically, though ... generally speaking, I would prefer to see my students reject the rules, explore what happens then, and develop their own understanding of why the rules have been proposed, than just accept them. And as a client, I would rather employ the first sort than the second − an uncritical mind is more likely to be "boring" than a square selected by a critical one.
     
  107. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Gimmicks will always come and go.​
    All it takes if five minutes with the work of Luis Gonzalez Palma, a great photographic artist although priced way too high for me to ever consider, to understand that calling square format a "gimmick" is the height of absurdity.
     
  108. Jeff Spirer [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:06 a.m.
    Gimmicks will always come and go.
    All it takes if five minutes with the work of Luis Gonzalez Palma, a great photographic artist although priced way too high for me to ever consider, to understand that calling square format a "gimmick" is the height of absurdity.
    Let's see, one photographer who did SOME square format work.
    That's your database?
    That makes your case?
    You're kidding, right?
    Bill P.
     
  109. Rules never accomplish anything, it's the breaking of them that pushes things forward, only in this context they are needed.
     
  110. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    You're kidding, right?​
    No. If it was a gimmick, it wouldn't be art for anyone.

    But the fact is, as Luis points out, that plenty of great photographers have done terrific work with the square. That one person can't only points out that person's limitations.
     
  111. Felix Grant [​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:05 a.m.
    Bill,
    I do agree that "I don't need so stinking rules" is not constructive.
    On the other hand, I can't see any sign of that approach in Arthur's question?
    Felix,
    I didn't see it in the question either.
    I see it in the answers.
    Let's look at it this way.
    Disregarding any rules, etc., if "square" worked, it would be the format of choice.
    The rules come about through observations like this.
    Airplanes crash due to an overlooked aerodynamic phenomenon.
    It doesn't get overlooked any more, it becomes a design criteria ("rule").
    I mention this and people go nuts trying to disprove the obvious.
    People will mention one artist, who used a square format occasionaly, and that negates the rules, or some such bizarre logic.
    Luckily, aircraft are designed with a bit more consideration for the way things work in the real world.
    Bill P.
     
  112. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:31 a.m.
    Rules never accomplish anything, it's the breaking of them that pushes things forward, only in this context they are needed.
    Right.
    Good to know.
    What design school taught you that?
    Bill P.
     
  113. Jeff Spirer [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:35 a.m.
    You're kidding, right?
    No. If it was a gimmick, it wouldn't be art for anyone.

    But the fact is, as Luis points out, that plenty of great photographers have done terrific work with the square. That one person can't only points out that person's limitations.
    "Plenty".
    Right.
    Considering the thousands of artists who have turned out millions of pieces of great art over the centuries, what number is "plenty"?
    And what one person do you imply that "can't"?
    Bill P.
     
  114. Bill, if I remember, you wanted the discussion to move on (or back to...) the more philosophical basis of the use or understanding of three compositional elements: the square format, centering of subjects and symmetry in photographic images. It probably won't, if you insist on debating every participant on the single subject of the square format and "the rules".
     
  115. Arthur, I posted something and then read your post and, respecting your thread, I prefer to allow it continue as you wish, so I am deleting what I wrote.
     
  116. What design school taught you that?
    None, which makes the point perfectly.
     
  117. Double post, sorry.
     
  118. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:45 a.m.
    Bill, if I remember, you wanted the discussion to move on (or back to...) the more philosophical basis of the use or understanding of three compositional elements: the square format, centering of subjects and symmetry in photographic images. It probably won't, if you insist on debating every participant on the single subject of the square format and "the rules".
    Arthur, people keep challenging me, and I don't back down. Ever.
    But in deference to you and our combined wishes to see this thread move forward, I will ignore all further challenges on the square format issue.
    So to move forward (again), did you notice the use of symmetry, verticals, etc. in the President's speech last night?
    Bill P.
     
  119. Phylo Dayrin [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 11:51 a.m.
    What design school taught you that?
    None, which makes the point perfectly.
    In deference to Arthur's wishes, we're moving forward.
    Bill P.
     
  120. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Julie brought up the possibility that photography isn't like other graphic arts, that it's much more manifestly a selection than a creation, but I suspect that distinction is post-photography, that some people working as painters/illustrators/news engravers would have seen their job as capturing a selection of reality. Court illustrators same thing, a semblance of reality.
    If photography is radically different from previous art, then drawing inferences from earlier art may not be correct.
    I'm, however, still jonesing for a 645 Hasselblad back.
     
  121. Interesting points, Rebecca.
    I'm not sure I'm being logical, because I absolutely see the logic of your answer about photographs and, say, court illustrations. My bias is that I generally think about photographs as not serving a forensic purpose but it's good to be reminded that they can and do at times. And, somehow, despite the analogy working when you compare the selection aspect of making photographs to the selection aspect of illustrating, I do feel a fairly strong difference between the two. There's just something about holding a lens up to the world and framing out part of that world that feels so different to me from an illustrator selecting the part of the world to illustrate. It's something I will try to put my finger on, but can't quite at this point. Maybe I will just photograph it.
    What ever inferences I draw from earlier or other art mediums to photography, I don't hope for them to be correct. Again, I understand you're not using the word pedantically, but what I mean is that the logic doesn't necessarily even have to hold up. For me, the inferences just have to be suggestive. I mean, even if the inferences are wrong, what harm is done, if those inferences lead you to use your medium or create with your medium in a way that suits your purposes and/or vision?
     
  122. Rebecca Brown [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 01:52 p.m.
    Julie brought up the possibility that photography isn't like other graphic arts......

    Fred Goldsmith [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 03:51 p.m.
    Interesting points, Rebecca.
    I'm not sure I'm being logical, because I absolutely see the logic of your answer about photographs and, say, court illustrations......
    How does these posts relate to the O/P, which is....

    Square framing, centered subjects and symmetry in photography - the poor relatives?
    Bill P.
     
  123. jtk

    jtk

    IMO reducing photography to "a graphic art" seems as odd as reducing Bach's work to a graphic art (musicians say he leaps from the page into their heads, sans instrument).
    Have you seen film of Picasso at work? Was what you saw mere "graphic art?" I recall him frying a fish, eating it, using the bones to make a print. He was a dramatist, fish-frying/eating print-maker... that particular morning. A mere collector or curator might call that print "graphic art," but she'd miss the point, which was more cinematic.
    That "graphic art" label reduces the work to a Walmart category.
     
  124. John Kelly [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 28, 2010; 05:09 p.m.
    IMO reducing photography to "a graphic art" seems as odd as reducing Bach's work to a graphic art (musicians say he leaps from the page into their heads, sans instrument).
    Once again,
    How do these posts relate to the O/P, which is....

    Square framing, centered subjects and symmetry in photography - the poor relatives?
    Bill P.
     
  125. *nodding at John K.*
    We're not doing logos or leisure wear.
    How does these posts relate to the O/P, which is....

    Square framing, centered subjects and symmetry in photography - the poor relatives?
    Bill P.​
    If a (fully trained) pilot is looking at a photograph of the cockpit of an airplane and he is also looking at an illustration of the cockpit of an airplane and his life will depend on the accuracy of what he is seeing is there any qualitative difference in his confidence level of what exists beyond the frame of both images? If so, if the edge of a photograph is somewhat "permeable," how does that change the significance of the photographic frame to the composition within its boundary? (Centering, frame shape and symmetry being dependent on, defined by, requiring a fixed, "limiting" frame, not one that is ... leaky.)
     
  126. jtk

    jtk

    Julie, your "leaky" metaphor serves beautifully IMO, but I'm not sure quite how you intended it. Your pilot-in-training learned the most significant of her skills using an absolutely "leaky" visual / kinesthetic / auditory field (a simulator and actual aircraft)...same as a painter or photographer (vs "graphic artist).
    Premier photographers evade teaching jobs in colleges for the same heartfilled reasons premier painters, actors, and musicians do: they swim in freedom, which relates to "leaky."
    And of course, "those that can, do" (re teaching vs the work): one might more logically seek mentoring by someone competent (the way many photographers do..), rather than having rules about proportions drummed into one's skull, like holy writ.
    Granted, there have been a few important arts educators (think Man Ray, Minor White et al), but the proliferation of trite and hip that has always constituted 95% in MFA exhibitions proves good work, if present, grew up despite the "education" . Good work has nothing to do with CVs, but academies are built on them.
    A photo's format remains a worthless abstraction, does nothing of importance until a particular photographer (eg Arthur) makes a decision...it has nothing to do with theory (IMO...of course :)
     
  127. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    John Kelly, I think most teaching writers are not always that competent, but I'd put Joyce Carol Oates, John McPhee, and John Ashbery (in different genres) as among the best people writing today. Commercial isn't always good; academic isn't always literary. Defensiveness isn't always useful.
    Julie, the point for the bird illustrators is that illustrations can show all the field marks very deliberately, condition of the photograph can blur these. A good photograph is not necessarily good information.
    Admittedly this is far from the square we started with. The Hasselblad idea was that if one didn't compose to the square, one could crop (and the screen in my C/M has lines for 645 framing).
    I don't think there are hard and fast lines between art photography and illustrative photography, but would suspect that illustrative photography centers or only slightly off-centers the subject.
     
  128. It is interesting I think how architecture and photography (and other forms of art) overlap in expression. In our town, several buildings were constructed with interiors containing "trompe-l'oeil" elements, false reproductions of classical architecture elements that fool the eye. Well, not quite,... and that is what can be appealing. High degrees of symmetry in a photo composition or in a painting or sculpture can be interesting, especially when offset by some incongruous element. The latter can often introduce an anomally or tenson in the "ensemble", which may make a point of some sort to the viewer. The use of multiple symmetry can also be effective, and possibly either oppressive or harmonious, depending upon the image and the photographer's intention.
    These are but mind constructs at present, but I will look around for a few examples. I like the concept of broken symmetry and underlying symmetry in an asymetric image, and the opposite.
     
  129. I am going to make two posts. This first one is a bit of a wild-hair in, riffing off of what Arthur has said above. The next post will be much more reasonable, so skip this one if you don't like to stretch your thinking.
    Extracting from an article, found here, called Experimental Geography: From Cultural Production to Production of Space by Trevor Paglen:
    A good geographer ... might use her discipline’s analytic axioms to approach the problem of "art" in a decidedly different way.
    Instead of asking "What is art?" or "Is this art successful?" a good geographer might ask questions along the lines of "How is this space called ‘art’ produced?" In other words, what are the specific historical, economic, cultural, and discursive conjunctions that come together to form something called "art" and, moreover, to produce a space that we colloquially know as an "art world"? The geographic question is not "What is art?" but "How is art?" From a critical geographic perspective, the notion of a free-standing work of art would be seen as the fetishistic effect of a production process. Instead of approaching art from the vantage point of a consumer, a critical geographer might reframe the question of art in terms of spatial practice.​
    Can you do what he is suggesting? At least try? Stretch your idea of what/where/in-what-way the art frame happens? (What kind of artist won't try?)
     
  130. Second post -- coming back to earth ... I have what I think are some interesting examples of symmetry and framing to consider:
    Two versions of Dawoud Bey's Amishi in which he uses frames within the overall frame to work with and/or break symmetry -- the symmetry of those multiple frames as well as the side-to-side symmetry of the figure broken by the four frames:
    http://collectionsonline.lacma.org/mwebcgi/mweb.exe?request=record;id=118587;type=101
    http://www.christies.com/LotFinder/lot_details.aspx?pos=7&intObjectID=3960961&sid=
    Next, Nicholas Nixon's very well-know series on the Brown sisters. Each individual group portrait is interesting in its own right, but the effect of the series is much greater due in large part to the identical arrangement of the women -- which, when seen one after the other is a type of symmetry:
    http://www.zabriskiegallery.com/Nixon/TBS/nixonimages.htm
    An obvious example of symmetry in a squarish format is Arbus's very famous photo of twins:
    http://www.heyhotshot.com/blog/images/arbus_twins.jpg
    Two examples of gorgeous and subtle use of all kinds of symmetry/assymmetry in a squarish image are found in these two examples by Rafael Goldchain:
    http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/image/5014921264845046094/
    http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/image/54548357121284668153939/
    And one outstanding example of powerful use of the center in a square format; Peter Bock-Schroeder's Samson and Delilah, Peru (1956):
    http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/image/83156178568758370799/
     
  131. BILL-'Gimmicks will always come and go.
    Innovation comes and stays. That's the difference.'
    You have to be joking. The square format has been a part of photography since 120 film was invented. Probably the most used format by studio photographers for a solid 25 years- think Bert Stern and Marilyn Monroe! I don't think you know what you are talking about. If you don't see the square in print, its because, as I stated much earlier, magazines and books are rectangles. There are bunches of photographers using the format still- Norman Jean Roy uses a Rollei twin lens. I used my fathers Mamiya flex on my travels through Europe. Mamiya, Hasselblad, Bronica, Rollei- still putting out the 6x6. I don't use it anymore, because I don't shoot film. As for innovation staying, I also don't use a very popular and useful innovation for decades on end- the enlarger. Another great innovation in photography- the brownie camera- I don't use one of those. How about the populist's innovation, Polaroid- gone with the wind. How about the most popular innovation- 35mm film. Haven't touched it in 5 years. Be careful about innovation being here to stay- it will be gone before you can blink.
     
  132. Martin Sobey , Jan 30, 2010; 08:53 a.m.
    BILL-'Gimmicks will always come and go.
    Innovation comes and stays. That's the difference.'
    You have to be joking..... I don't think you know what you are talking about.....
    Martin, that's a direct attack. I typically don't even bother addressing something that offensive, but let's give it a try this one time.
    To begin with, what's your training?
    My bio states mine, so believe me, I DO know what I'm talking about, and nowhere do I mention any comedic aspirations, so no, I'm not joking.
    You state that the square format was the format of choice for 25 years.
    Then you mention that it's NOT used due to magazine formats.
    The format is aesthetically unappealing.
    That's why you don't see it in print. Magazines are not square format because the format is unappealing.
    Otherwise, magazines would be square.
    Then where is it used, billboards? Television? Motion picture? Fashion magazines? Art galleries?
    Since the dawn of recorded history, man has expressed himself in either landscape or portrait aspect ratios. That's not years, decades or centuries, that's millennia.
    That's quite a difference from twenty five "solid" years, which, by the way, implies that it was the format of choice.
    It wasn't. It was preferred by some photographers because it provided plenty of cropping choices, etc.
    After looking at your photos here on P/N, it seems that even YOU don't use the square format.
    Your "Palm Beach" comp comes close at 614x720 pixels, but even that is not square.
    So tell me what art school teaches you things like this, and we'll take it from there, if you care to retract your " I don't think you know what you are talking about....." statement.
    Bill P.
     
  133. The use of multiple symmetry can also be effective, and possibly either oppressive or harmonious, depending upon the image and the photographer's intention.
    These are but mind constructs at present, but I will look around for a few examples. I like the concept of broken symmetry and underlying symmetry in an asymetric image, and the opposite.- Arthur​
    Andreas Gursky's work immediately comes to mind :underlying symmetry in an asymetric image. Also regarding symmetry in architecture, which is manipulated into something even more symmetrical and "objective".

    Symmetry can be effective, in its objective'ness, it being "too clean", "too cold", "too neutral",...This can be mesmerising in a strange way when there's a symmetry of concept and execution ( throughout an entire building ) or throughout a body of work, like that of Bernd / Hilla Becher, essentially they made one same photograph every time again, with each one mirroring each other, being symmetrical in their cause.

    It's interesting to think about symmetry not only from the literal sense but also from the conceptual angle.
    Julie's examples are also interesting, showing the distinctiveness of the square.
     
  134. Symmetry of concept (thanks, Phylo) can also be accompanied by symmetry of context. It can tie into body of work.
    I often find myself working in overarching symmetries/asymmetries over the course of several or several groups of photos. Some of my photos seem like reactions to previous ones. Sometimes there seems to be a forward trajectory through several successive photos, a conceptual asymmetry away from balance only evidenced in the latest few photos taken in context of each other. Sometimes, on the other hand, there's a response and adjustment suggesting balance over the course of a period of time. Color may beckon in response to several blacks and whites. A mood, atmosphere, ambiance seems worthy of getting explored deeper, into an asymmetry away from other moods. And sometimes the feeling of wanting to offset a certain mood that's been dominating in order to balance or at least answer it is overwhelming.
    Conceptual symmetry/asymmetry . . . a symmetrical composition is sometimes born of the most imbalanced emotional state. A very inner imbalance may suggest or demand a symmetrical visual response. Asymmetrical compositions can be produced by very exacting and balanced minds (and hearts). Visual photographic symmetry can put me in touch with the imbalance of the world around me and imbalance in a photo can seem to right a dizzying world.
    A square is not a judgment. It's geometry.
     
  135. Symmetry and asymmetry. One example of what I was mentioning in my last post, albeit not an emotionally charged one (which I think is the better role for the play of the twoelements). Made in a small village restaurant terrace, while awaiting the garage verdict on the state of our broken down old car. Distractions at such time are good for the mind.
    00VdtJ-215645584.jpg
     
  136. Bad title though (hardly an abstract) !
     
  137. A very simple holiday snapshot, yet involving symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, as well as centered subjects.
    00Vdtp-215651584.jpg
     
  138. Conceptual symmetry/asymmetry . . . a symmetrical composition is sometimes born of the most imbalanced emotional state. A very inner imbalance may suggest or demand a symmetrical visual response. Asymmetrical compositions can be produced by very exacting and balanced minds (and hearts).​
    Yes, like the photographer photogaphing his / her way out of it as well as into it ( "it" being the mental state ).
    There's the building or construction as architecture, and it may be symmetrical or not, but there's also the architecture of the building, like the architecture of the landscape, the architecture of the brain, the architecture of photography and of a body of work,...
    The architecture of imagination even, which may be neither symmetrical nor assymetrical.
     
  139. mizore

    mizore A Gringa in Nicaragua

    Julie, it looks like a good square is the sum of its rectangles.
     
  140. Bill- 'To begin with, what's your training?'
    My bio doesn't state who I worked for, because my work stands for itself www.MartinSobey.com
    If you must know I have over 8 years assisting world renowned photographers including some people you, obviously an industry insider, might know of: Mary Ellen Mark, Norman Jean Roy, Michel Comte, Diego Uchitel, Mark Abrahams, Ilan Rubin, Steven Hellerstein.... I also have shot a few campaigns and some people of note like Chuck Close, Hillary Clinton and Russel Simmons. My art is emerging too and I have done a few interviews lately with reputable organizations like the Discovery Channel and Wooster Collective. I also have art coming out in a book published by Rizzoli.
    As for the square format in cameras that I was referring to in your previous comment, yes 25 years of solid use is a great amount of time, since the medium is only 175 years old. I'm sure sales of 6x6 format would confirm that. If we are talking about man's historical use of the rectangle, wherein "gimmick" and "innovation" is concerned- photography's existence is but a drop in the bucket compared to to "millenia" so we should probably be able to see that photography, too, will one day no longer be around and consider the whole medium as a "gimmick". Nice try though.
    Both Jeff and I cited references to known photographers who used 6x6, and I might add very convincingly and in extremely popular work. More come to mind: Mary Ellen Mark, Diane Arbus, Francesco Scavullo.... I'm sure Hasselblad will gladly give you a list of the thousands of photographers who use(d) their cameras with great results. I say the format IS due to magazines and books, and I said I DID travel through Europe shooting with a Mamiyaflex. Did you actually read my post?
    'So tell me what art school teaches you things like this, and we'll take it from there, if you care to retract your " I don't think you know what you are talking about....." statement'
    I don't care to.
     
  141. Julie: the application of critical geographic methods to art completes a circuit whose brokenness I've long felt. Thank you for the reference.
    I've already started a set of small visual projects triggered by Arthur's questions, so this thread has been pure pay dirt for me.
     
  142. Martin Sobey , Jan 30, 2010; 01:42 p.m.
    'So tell me what art school teaches you things like this, and we'll take it from there, if you care to retract your " I don't think you know what you are talking about....." statement'
    I don't care to.
    I didn't think so.
    Bill P.
     
  143. Bill P to Martin S:
    To begin with, what's your training? My bio states mine, so believe me, I DO know what I'm talking about
    I'm curious ... what do you see as the necessary connection between training in a creative field and knowing what one is talking about?
    No training which I have received (nor, for that matter, training which I have delivered) imparts any authority.
    Training encourages the development of skills. Education (a very different thing) encourages development of affect. The two together encourage developmnt of knowledge. But none of them guarantee development of anything − far less the development of authority. Authority (in any area) is earned by what one does with the opportunities afforded, not by those opportunities in and of themselves − and is only given by others, not by oneself.
     
  144. "I've already started a set of small visual projects triggered by Arthur's questions, so this thread has been pure pay dirt for me."
    I am delighted to hear that, Felix. And I share your interest in pursuing the potential of these image elements and their interaction.
     
  145. @ Felix Grant
    Julie: the application of critical geographic methods to art completes a circuit whose brokenness I've long felt. Thank you for the reference.
    I've already started a set of small visual projects triggered by Arthur's questions, so this thread has been pure pay dirt for me.​
    Awesome! Totally awesome!
    I am enjoying thinking about the examples, both visual and descriptive that are being posted. Very stimulating. Thanks to Arthur for being a good shepherd.
     
  146. Fred touched on the role of symmetry and framing in conception. Going in.
    How about the role of symmetry and framing in reception that is not strictly due to (material) composition. Going out.
    Thinking about this because I just ran across this in a book I'm reading:
    ... there are many such objects and things that "look back" and break the frame -- and continuity -- of the characters' (and our) quotidian and mastering vision, their increased stature and imperiousness opening our own eys to the broadened scope of existence.​
    Similar to my earlier suggestion about the permeability of the frame, but this quote points to the psychological rather than the material continuity of the world that is outside the frame of the photograph -- as part of or affecting the balance of an image's content. This seems pretty obvious but I'm not sure it's been considered reference the mechanics of composition.
     
  147. Julie, notwithstanding the quote, which I feel may require a more complete reference to what the author was thinking in order to savour it fully, your suggestion that the frame is not just a physical one is important. It is one reason I think the square frame is appropriate in some instances, as it has a less defined capacity than the rectangular frame to influence the viewer. However, more important I think is the fact that whatever the frame chosen by the photographer or artist, it can easily be overridden by the mental perception (of the image) of the viewer and the thought voyage of the viewer, which can go way beyond any geometrical constraints.
    What makes an image particularly adept at inciting the viewer to go (to think) beyond its geometrical limits? Is that the physical construction of the image composition, the emotional impact of the image, its intellectual message, its mystery, or....? Or, has the artist really anything to do with it?
    The artist and the viewer may be two completely different thinking individuals, connected only by the perceived message (nay, the perceived meaning) of the image.
    A subject, no doubt, for this and other posts. Thanks for raising what was latent in the minds of a number of us, I'm sure.
     
  148. Felix Grant [​IMG], Jan 30, 2010; 01:53 p.m.
    Bill P to Martin S:

    To begin with, what's your training? My bio states mine, so believe me, I DO know what I'm talking about
    I'm curious ... what do you see as the necessary connection between training in a creative field and knowing what one is talking about?
    Felix, I'm a little short on time, though I always look forward to your questions.
    Let's cut to the chase.
    Next time you go to the doctor for that physical, ask him if he's self taught.
    Or, better yet, tell him that you don't think he knows what he's talking about.
    Bottom line ---
    Those of us that put in the thousands of hours of schooling, did the work, passed the tests, graduated, have earned the right to a bit more criedibility that those people who were "winging it" in the bistro quoting phrases from their latest coffee table book on the "Pre Raphaelites".
    Those who did not put in the time have no idea how intense the subject is.
    That's the connection.
    Bill P.
     
  149. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 31, 2010; 08:23 a.m.
    What makes an image particularly adept at inciting the viewer to go (to think) beyond its geometrical limits? Is that the physical construction of the image composition, the emotional impact of the image, its intellectual message, its mystery, or....? Or, has the artist really anything to do with it?
    Arthur, the artist has everything to do with it!
    I want you to feel what I was feeling at the time. My photos are simply a window into my process, and I want you to take the trip with me. That's why I shoot unretouched, I want you to experience the truth I was experiencing at that exact moment, as clearly as possible.
    Bill P.
     
  150. "Those of us that put in the thousands of hours of schooling, did the work, passed the tests, graduated, have earned the right to a bit more criedibility that those people who were 'winging it' in the bistro quoting phrases from their latest coffee table book on the 'Pre Raphaelites'." --William
    Neither are necessarily credible to me. People who have learned to think for themselves and internalize what they've learned in hours of schooling, self study, or practice are people I want to listen to. (Thankfully, artists are not pilots and I've never seen a painting I thought my life depended on. Maybe once or twice it felt like it!) People who have ideas are people I want to listen to. Both groups you mention simply wing it, either resting on quotes from coffee table books or quotes from teachers or famous artists or mainstream statistics. When I sense someone knows what they're talking about it's because they show me that they know what they are talking about, by being able to talk about it, engage in a discussion about it. Not because they can list their credentials, genetics, or books they have on their coffee table. Not when they participate in a discussion by only simply stating their opinions without backing them up with the personal observations and hands-on experience that led them to make those opinions their own rather than simply recite them. Valuable to me also are those that want to learn as well as to teach others. People who know what they're talking about also know what they don't know. People who know are usually those who want to know more. They often make exploratory statements and wonder about new ideas.
     
  151. The following photographs are hastily chosen, but may illustrate what I think Julie may be referring to when she declared that in some cases the frame doesn't physically exist, that the photographer as well as the viewer may be suggesting or expeiencing things (thoughts, state of feelings,...) that occur outside the frame. I apologize if my examples are a bit limited, but I would also encourage others to provide images that support an "unframed perception" (which is no doubt a form of non-visual communication or understanding).
    00VeKZ-215983584.jpg
     
  152. and the second and perhaps less evocative:
    00VeKa-215983684.jpg
     
  153. Arthur, for me there's a difference between what will take me out of the frame in terms of "thoughts, state of feelings" of the viewer and the photographer, on the one hand, and what will take me out of the frame compositionally and visually. As I think about it, I'd probably say that all decent photographs (ones I want to pay more than passing attention to) will take me, to some extent, outside the frame on the former level. What I see will blend with my own experience and feelings to elicit a response. Yet, only a small subset of those photos will actually compositionally or visually point me outside the frame in a uniquely significant way. I think all compositions, since they frame things out, do suggest what's beyond the frame, but I think some do so much more as a key to their being than others. I find both your examples definitely suggesting thoughts and feelings outside the frame, but not pointedly suggesting a continuation of the visual world outside the frame to a strong degree for me.
    Trolley, New Orleans, 1955, by Robert Frank suggests visually, compositionally, and concretely what's outside the frame, not only because the train windows form a series that seems to be interrupted by the frame, the folks at the edges cut off a bit, but because strongly implied visually is what the people are looking at, which is not in the frame (although it is suggested by reflections in the windows above).
    Butte, MT, by Frank, is another similar example (without any reflections that might, but I don't think do, undermine the notion of what's not in the frame).
    Gunslinger with Camera, by Frank, is another one.
    The middle photo, by Frank, of the gas station -- to me -- is less about compositionally or visually suggesting what's outside the frame and more about my mind wandering beyond the edges.
     
  154. Arthur,
    The first one works very well for me -- it is not bounded by the frame; it comes forward to meet me.
    I can talk myself into the same thing with the second (color) one, but I would need a quieter mind than I have at this minute to properly interact with it. (Both are beautiful spaces. Thank you.)
    For another experiment with out-of-frame symmetry, try looking at Irving Penn's portrait of Picasso:
    http://www.nga.gov/press/exh/208/index.shtm
    For me, his (Picasso's) eye locks so forcefully to my own that I feel as if my eye becomes part of the composition; a symmetrical binding. Does it do that for anybody else?
    [Fred -- ... thank you. We are taking turns trying to be Anne Sullivan ... ]
     
  155. [I posted at the same time as Fred. Just to be clear, my Anne Sullivan comment to Fred in my previous post was directed at his post before this last one, i.e. the one at Jan 31, 2010; 10:37 a.m.; it does not refer to Aurthur. ]
     
  156. "For me, his (Picasso's) eye locks so forcefully to my own that I feel as if my eye becomes part of the composition; a symmetrical binding. Does it do that for anybody else?"
    Absolutely - a riveting portrait, but not just the eye lock, a lock also into what we perceive (know) of Picasso's personality and being.
     
  157. Another one that I think is really interesting. Not as forceful as the Penn one, but I think it depends on your bodily responses to complete the effect. See if this picture doesn't make you listen, or at least make you think about sound; it's Nadar's Pierrot Listening (1854-55):
    http://unrealnature.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/nadar_pierrot.jpg
    The head and hand on the left balance the full weight of the rest of the body on the right. I think it's the concentration of the face and the gesture of the hand which ask or urge you to be included (physically) in the out-of-frame shared stop-and-listen moment that gives the proper weight to the left side.
     
  158. Another Picasso photo-portrait. Well-known, but I forget the author (not Penn, nor Karsh, Davidson, Doisneau or Miller. Avedon?) and couldn't find that on Google. His expression and eye do drag you into the image, though.
    00VePF-216033584.jpg
     
  159. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 30, 2010; 12:16 p.m.
    A very simple holiday snapshot, yet involving symmetrical and asymmetrical elements, as well as centered subjects.
    Arthur, what a wonderful holiday photo, only to be spoiled by the very distracting "horizon line", which is defined by the ceiling. It's tilted, just slightly, but enough to get my attention - immediately. If you're going to do shots like this, those details are EXTREMELY important. It's "off" by -1.25 degrees.
    I took the liberty of correcting the photo for you so you can see what I see.
    Please accept this observation as a suggestion to improve your craft, it is by no means a critique.
    Bill P.
    00VePK-216035584.jpg
     
  160. "For me, his (Picasso's) eye locks so forcefully to my own that I feel as if my eye becomes part of the composition; a symmetrical binding. Does it do that for anybody else?"
    Absolutely - a riveting portrait, but not just the eye lock, a lock also into what we perceive (know) of Picasso's personality and being.​
    The image online is a mere shadow of the original print, when we are talking about the eye locking into. In the original print you can clearly see the reflection in the eye of the outside landscape and a tree standing in it. Mesmerizing.
     
  161. Bill, I had noticed it, also in the edge wall vertical lines, but I guess I was a bit unbalanced by the sight of my friends enjoying their Versailles Louis XIV "jig". A pity that Louis spent so much on his castle and so little on supporting New France (New England progress did a lot better with its Royal patrons), although he did send all those "daughters of the king" (Filles du Roi) to the New World in the mid 17th C, which helped to ensure I would eventually meet the one that could put up with me.
    Phylo, that effect is undoubtably forcefull, but the "opaque" eye also has its own effect in connecting with the viewer.
     
  162. Arthur, yes it was forcefull, it was in Paris where I saw the Penn / Avedon exhibition, enriched with the photography of Hiro ( an Avedon " student " ).
    But those prints though, those photographs, they left me humbled, best photography experience I ever had.
     
  163. Here's a photo of mine with a partial comment from a viewer:
    Untitled 5
    Is that a reflection on the TV or is it on? Looks like it is a reflection, is the photographer visible? With the person at the window with his shadow, i get a strong sense of of the photographer involved in completing a 3 point geometry. Further enhanced by the angle of the room and the shadow looking for you.
    When i observed that this piece had a geometry that extended outside the frame. Motion was what i saw, my eye movement was engaged and had become a significance for me. I find that kinetic awareness as a tool is not often considered or intentionally used in still photography.
    ________________________________
    Here are two other examples from Moholy-Nagy, who was also talked about by the viewer who commented above in terms of still photographic kinesis:
    Scandinavia 1930,
    Radio Tower Berlin
    Both of these, I think, achieve their three-dimensionality with an obvious extreme perspective. But I think there's a bit more to it, which is that they seem to depend on the viewer to complete the perspective, to ensure the depth. It is outside the frame and with the viewer that the true perspective is achieved only with the viewer's presence. Other photos with depth don't seem to rely as much upon the viewer's actual positioning or being. With many three-dimensional photos, I can imagine that depth being there even without me, with just what I see in the frame. In the first of the Molohy-Nagy photos, the sailor's eyes looking at us helps us become part of the scene, helps transgress the frame. But that's almost too easy as an example. In the second, we don't have those eyes, we just have the perspective, a perspective which seems to expect the viewer.
    As I think back on the origins of the thread, especially the matter of symmetry/asymmetry, I consider that much of the symmetry/asymmetry we see and experience is dependent on the viewer's relationship to the photograph and completion of the visual composition. The viewer's place visually, in addition to his place literally, narratively, thoughtfully, and conceptually is significant in rendering and completing a symmetry or an asymmetry.
     
  164. "As I think back on the origins of the thread, especially the matter of symmetry/asymmetry, I consider that much of the symmetry/asymmetry we see and experience is dependent on the viewer's relationship to the photograph and completion of the visual composition. The viewer's place visually, in addition to his place literally, narratively, thoughtfully, and conceptually is significant in rendering and completing a symmetry or an asymmetry." (Fred)
    Yes. The variants of the interplay of symmetry and asymmetry, in the image and in the mind, of both author and receptor of the image, are fascinating and potentially forcefull.
     
  165. Fred,
    Your Untitled 5 has me laughing -- because when I first looked at it I stared and stared -- and liked it very much but was thinking to myself, "this is not an example..." then I finally noticed the man on the left (outside) and BOOM, the circuits closed and I was in the composition. Especially effective when it pops into consciousness like that.
    So, now that the other man is there, it's, just a perfect example of what we're talking about. I think Josh's comment nails it:
    With the person at the window with his shadow, i get a strong sense of of the photographer involved in completing a 3 point geometry. Further enhanced by the angle of the room and the shadow looking for you.​
    I have an unrelated comment on Untitled 5 that I don't think any of the many commenters have said (I speed read the lot but I may have missed it). To me, the picture has many, many interesting details, but the overall impression that I get is of an animal (maybe creature is a nicer word?) in the zoo. A wild thing crouching behind bars. Possibly dangerous. There is a shadowy, jungly look to that room. (Not sure how I would explain the TV and the chairs, but maybe it's an urban jungle ...)
    Back to the examples, I don't get as much of the effect from the Scandanavia Moholy-Nagy but I do get it very strongly from the Radio Tower Berlin photo.
     
  166. Bill P:
    “Next time you go to the doctor for that physical, ask him if he's self taught.”​
    Like the pilot, last time, the doctor is a completely different case from a photographer and/or philosopher who do not have lives in their hands
    Those of us that put in the thousands of hours of schooling, did the work,
    passed the tests, graduated, have earned the right to a bit more criedibility
    that those people who were "winging it"...​
    Well ... thank you (genuinely) for the explanation. I do now see where our philosophical differences lie. I personally feel that those of us who put in the thousands of hours of school, tests, graduation, etc, have in many ways less credibility than those who spent the same time actually doing it.
    Not that I think the study/instruction time were valueless: far from it. But they were investment which upon which only experience out there winging (including learning equally by both successes and mistakes) it can capitalise − and then, how much value they have depends utterly upon what we do with them, not on the simple fact of having acquired them.
    For me, a single stunning image from a winger (and it can be squarely symmetrical − it's happened many times) trumps all my study, testing, graduation, in a moment. For you, I understand, the assessment is different. Long may our differences feed us.
     
  167. "I personally feel that those of us who put in the thousands of hours of school, tests, graduation, etc, have in many ways less credibility than those who spent the same time actually doing it." (Felix)
    So very true. They still occasionally let me play at work in my non-photographic and non-arts sector (process development in the natural resources sector), in which I do not consider that many years of education (almost a decade) and subsequent experience have necessarily given me enhanced credibility compared to many research amateurs or technician colleagues. I have had the pleasure of working with some highly gifted less formally educated colleagues who have earned their credibiity through their personal abilities, love of the sector, hard work and often brilliant innovations. I believe that this applies in many areas of human activity.
     
  168. Julie, that's great. I'm glad Untitled 5 worked for you that way. ;-)
    Very cool interpretation, by the way.
     
  169. Felix Grant [​IMG], Feb 01, 2010; 02:42 a.m.
    Bill P:

    “Next time you go to the doctor for that physical, ask him if he's self taught.”
    Those of us that put in the thousands of hours of schooling, did the work,
    passed the tests, graduated, have earned the right to a bit more criedibility than those people who were "winging it"...​
    Well ... thank you (genuinely) for the explanation. I do now see where our philosophical differences lie.
    Like the pilot, last time, the doctor is a completely different case from a photographer and/or philosopher who do not have lives in their hands
    Felix, it looks like you never studied counterpoint with my Father!
    I personally feel that those of us who put in the thousands of hours of school, tests, graduation, etc, have in many ways less credibility than those who spent the same time actually doing it.
    Felix, I went to schools where we DID the work, we didn't read about it.
    Those thousands of hours of schooling taught me how to get great results every time, not just occasionally by "winging" it.
    I never relied on a "winger" when I needed results on a location shoot.
    That's what clients pay for, results, not luck.
    And let's face it, not everyone who goes to school has "it". Sure there are many people who are great at passing tests, but in the field..............
    Nice chat, as always,
    Bill P.
     
  170. Arthur Plumpton [​IMG][​IMG], Jan 31, 2010; 02:27 p.m.
    Bill, I had noticed it, also in the edge wall vertical lines, but I guess I was a bit unbalanced by the sight of my friends enjoying their Versailles Louis XIV "jig".
    That's what I thought !
    A pity that Louis spent so much on his castle and so little on supporting New France (New England progress did a lot better with its Royal patrons), although he did send all those "daughters of the king" (Filles du Roi) to the New World in the mid 17th C, which helped to ensure I would eventually meet the one that could put up with me.
    I was brought up half WASP. I know the drill. Intimately.
    The other half is Brooklyn Sicilian. Don't aks (sic). Capice?
    Bill P.
     
  171. Bill P:
    Felix, it looks like you never studied counterpoint with my Father!
    [smile] It's true ... rumours of my involvement with your father are wholly unfounded :)
     
  172. Fred and Arthur -- and everybody else (hello all you quiet people!):
    I have two quotes that are about the "out-of-frame" connections that we've been working on. (This interests me greatly, as you can probably tell). These quotes could really be the core of a new thread, but I don't have the time (or the will) to be a proper thread shepherd:
    As the image becomes translated into a bodily response, body and image no longer function as discrete units, but as surfaces in contact, engaged in a constant activity of reciprocal re-alignment and inflection.
    -- Elena del Rio, Body as Foundation
    [Flesh] is definitely not a determinable, impermeable border between the self and the world (or the self and the other) that fixes this self in a final way. As a physical membrane that sheds and reconstitutes itself continually, the flesh is never always the same material but always a contour in process, the flesh exists provisionally both as a permeable, shifting physical perimeter, a limbic surround of virtual containment, and as the visible trace of the human body (whose contours are never stable in one's own or an other's visual field). Metaphorically as well as materially, the flesh is an envelope, a "limit" inscribing the juncture between inside and outside but also the site of their joining.
    -- Amelia Jones, Body Art/Performing the Subject (1998)​
    ... "the site of their joining." That is what interests me.
     
  173. Julie, your interest in the "out-of-frame" connection, and as your choice of citations well indicates, is a great one, and to my mind a very important definer of the nature of human existence and human communications. You are right in saying it, and your examples deserve a separate thread. I do think it should be well related to photography and art, although your examples show how important it is in all communications. Perhaps like you and others I like to see photography transcending the merely pretty picture, or amiable or representative record, and take on more powerful communication objectives, those outside (coming or going) links of psychological or philosophical nature that bring the three elements of - artist - product - viewer - together.
    On a secondary theme, it is hard to have a continual and progressive discussion in a thread. Sometimes we become part of the "quiet people" and sometimes not, and sometimes we intercept an on-going discussion without full compatability (perhaps not the best word to use here..) with the theme. After a morning of intense and useful discussion with a work colleague, I am rather away from any PNet theme, of course, and I think that such multiple interests we all have can brake our involvement in discussion, just as the many on-going discussions elsewhere on PNet can also do that. There is also the time factor. We are not always ready at some moment to offer something that perhaps we still consider only half-baked. And sometimes we get involved in tangential causes, sometimes not realising we are a bit off-track. This can have an effect on the flow and the perception of other possible contributors. Having been guilty of all these sins, I guess I am just reflecting on the sometimes difficulty of carrying on, to a more fruitful end, a purposeful discussion. But my hat is off to you and several others who can steer the discussion back to important aspects and offer new thoughts.
    And offering new thoughts (or new to the receiver thereof) is I suppose essentially what this forum intends. It is often very exciting to assimilate some of these ideas into one's photographic work. That is partly why I engage here. I seldom tire of hearing the ideas and intentions of others, like yourself, Fred, Felix, Phylo, .... and the list is quite long.
     
  174. jtk

    jtk

    Quick comment: I find Felix G's photos compelling. There's far more to them than peripheral matters like "composition" or "beauty." Fixating on those such factors would rob the images of their significance.
    The potential to go beyond form is one of photography's distinguishing potentials. Another is the "gift," per Christian theology ("freely given") and the Buddhist aphorism "enlightenment favors the prepared mind."
     
  175. John- 'the Buddhist aphorism "enlightenment favors the prepared mind.'
    I thought it was 'Chance favors the prepared mind' - Louis Pasteur
    I like both:)
     
  176. Whatever favors the prepared mind, there's only two hits on Google for 'enlightenment favors the prepared mind'. One is by JK on photo.net from 9/8/09:
    " However, I know "enlightenment favors the prepared mind" and "seek ye the Lord when He is near."
    Curiously, the only other hit for that "buddhist" saying is from a djon , who sounds exactly like JK, in the Rangefinder forum, from 8/26/05:
    "A real hunter is never a "random opportunist."

    "Seek ye the Lord while he is near." That's hunting. As is "enlightenment favors the prepared mind."

    Farmers live on the sweat of communal brows. Hunters are (sic) invididuals.

    Hunters aren't "better" than farmers, they're just more individual."

    Sounds familiar...
    That's it. No reference to anything Buddhist. If it's Buddhist, just think...no one ever typed it into the web. Wow. Must be a secret teaching...
     
  177. Each day we are faced with thousands of images and untold quantities of random and non-random captures by our eyes, of things that may interest us, but often may not interest us. It is sort of a background noise in many cases, not entirely useless but often no more impressive than Musak in an elevator (the good-looking stranger in the "lift" may well change that impression). Most of it takes place with little reference to a frame, or not. It is just "there."
    The confines of the painting or photographic image allows us the opportunity to create order from such randomness. The rectangular image imposes its own rules on that, whereas the square frame is simply a neutral starting point from a framing point of view. In my photography, I am often using my somewhat battered but trusty Mamiya 6 (6x6) which makes no such demands upon my organisation of elements in the perceived image. I can stay with the square depiction or mentally frame the final image in a vertical or horizontal rectangular field. Not a bad situation also if the image is destined to a magazine cover or is to be otherwise overriden by text or the whims of an "art director." Fortunately, that is not a constraint in my case.
    We often wait to watch how dynamic (moving) elements come into play in influencing our choice of composition. We are thinking on one hand not so much of the geometry of the frame, but more of that of the elements within it. What do they say to us in certain juxtapositions, things that they don't say in other distributions? This is very important in street photography, where we cannot direct the elements, but are conscious of their ability to work for us, or against us (and not just us, but whatever is driving our reason for photographing a particular scene).
    Symmetry, or asymmetry, or both? Centering of elements, in our mind, and/or in the frame? The more elements there are, the more complex is the symmetry or the asymmetry, and the more potential there is for reacting one element against the other, or co-existing symmetrical patterns versus asymmetrical patterns (by patterns, I am refering mainly to the patterns of disposition of the picture elements or subjects).
    All of this I find very inspiring, especially in its potential to make interesting photographs and images that communicate both within and without the framelines, with me and hopefully the viewer of the final image. It is directing my work at present.
     
  178. Arthur typed - " Symmetry, or asymmetry, or both?"
    Cigars? Cigarettes? Tiparillos?
    Perfect symmetry is attractive, and often lulls the viewer into a contemplative state. In Islam, and in the sacred spaces (and scriptures) of other religions, these patterns are commonplace.
    Note that these complex symmetries in Islam are often broken spatially, via architecture, or more often, by sacred calligraphy.
    http://www.patterninislamicart.com/
    The geometry of some physics theories leads to complex symmetries.
    http://www.gogeometry.com/world_news_map/theory_everything_lisi.htm
    In diamonds, we want flawless, symmetrical perfection. In faces, we instinctively read bilateral symetry as a sign of health and beauty, but notice how some of the most attractive faces have spontaneous (unexpected, non-systemic) breaks in symmetry. Take Cindy Crawford's face. It's that oversize mole, sometimes referred to as a "beauty mark", others as an "imperfection" that many would have had surgically removed, that makes it. Or Isabella Rossellini's front tooth gap.
    It's the same in a photograph. The imperfection, or break in the symmetry simultaneously accentuates and deconstructs it, and creates a set of complex tensions and resonances in relation to the pattern that creates a formal dialog, if you will, that can be used to manipulate the weighing of content, shift and/or cause harmonics in the sliders in the "in-between" places.
    In many examples of "before and after" digital alterations to a photograph, we often notice that the "improved" version is lacking in relation to the original version. If one gets too anal about PP, it is easy to sterilize this symmetry. This is something that many proponents of 'straight' photography find appealing.
     
  179. jtk

    jtk

    Luis, I'm honored that you've worked so hard to find my ancient comments on another forum (Rangefinder, 2005).
    Regarding your anxiety about "enlightenment favors the prepared mind" :
    Why would it be online? Should we expect every utterance to be posted? Buddhism is a discipline, not a written thing, despite the pop media. My impression is that its aphorisms seem to be amusements as much as guides.
    Christians regard the Bible as the Word of God...but their brains tend to forget its parables (eg regarding gambling)...presumably because they aren't commandments, so require thought. Buddhist aphorisms, like Pasteur's, remind me of those parables.
    fyi: I was given the aphorism by a Zen monk in an English language introduction to Asian literature, 1964.
    I have no idea where he got it...all I know of his background was that he was "westernized," had come from a Japanese monastery, passed through Angkor Wat, where he photographed wonders and the signs of impending hell.
    I doubt you could find his photos on the Internet, so per your theology the man himself couldn't have existed. 50ish in 1964...likely kaput anyway.
    The Japanese started reading all sorts of Western science following Perry's arrival: maybe even Pasteur. Curious people.
    In 19th Century Japan, American authors such as Alan Poe and Samuel Clements (Twain) were translated and very popular. Amusing book: "Edigo Alanpo" ... Poe translated to Japanese, then re-translated back to English...I actually read it. Not on Amazon.com. Sorry.
     

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