aplumpton Posted January 24, 2010 Share Posted January 24, 2010 <p></p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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.</p> <p>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?</p> <p>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.</p> Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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