This task drove me mad.
What does point 2 actually mean? Does that mean the point moves but the frame does not? Or does it mean I have to move the frame to accomodate the point? I keep asking myself what on Earth this actually means, or more to the point (pun intended): what is the point? It seems pointless. Or is that besides the point? How many uses of ‘point’ can I fit in here?
I’ve had a look around on some other people’s blogs, and it seems that I am not alone; the ambiguity of “Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.” clearly does not just effect me (which I am quite happy about).
So, here are a few preparatory ideas from my beloved notebook, and a white board, followed by some first attempts at the point placement task with commentary below each image.
I think I can understand the first task better after having tried to visualise the spaces taken up by the “three classes of position to place a single point: in the middle, a little off-centre, and close to the edge.”
Exercise 1.2 i
I went with a square crop here (as I often do with my photography) because of its structure and discipline. I like what Freeman (2007, p 24) calls this ‘The bull’s-eye method’. He seems to shun the central placement, I quite like its implied stability and strength. And, like anything else, selecting a central focus of the subject depends on the context of what you are trying to do/suggest/imply with the shot, doesn’t it?
This off-centre point feels comfortable, although a suggestion of constriction creeps in to the shot, I think. But once again, the reason for placing the subject in the off-centre part of a frame would need to be justified and apparent (or inferred?). Also, what is its relationship to the constraints of the frame itself, and any secondary elements within the frame ? Or for that matter, OUTSIDE of the frame?
I quite like the tension of this ‘towards the edge’ shot: it pulls the eye to the right which creates a somewhat unnerving imbalance, I would say. It’s almost as if it’s looking for something to counteract its slide to the right: the ying searching for the yang. Freeman (2007, p66) rightly highlights the fact that such an extreme placement requires justification.
I like it. For me, this placement takes us out of the frame, or rather, it makes us think about where this spot is going, or leading us, or suggesting to us to look and even to think. Thinking beyond the frame, or, as Bunnell (2009, p161) refers to it when he was analyzing Robert Frank’s Fourth of July photo: “…Frank exploits the fragmenting properties of photography by calling attention not only to the arbitrariness of the camera angle and to the edge of the photograph, but precisely because of this, to the world outside of the picture’s limits.“. That is simple beautiful, and something that I had never really thought about consciously before: the world outside of the picture’s limits. I have always been infatuated, obsessed even (rightly so, I believe) by the content and not the implied (or obvious?) events taking place outside and around the confines of the frame itself.
Does this mean that almost every photograph is basically decontextualised? That again depends on so many factors and variables, as to be a silly question, but one probably worth continually coming back to.
Bunnell, C, Inside the Photograph, Aperture Foundation, 2009, p161
Freeman, M, The Photographer’s Eye, Focal Press, 2007, p24
Exercise 1.2 ii
Ok, I will have to admit that I just don’t get this task. And no, I can’t find a place where the point is not balanced. I feel a tad upset with myself for not getting this one; we all have to accept (and discover) our limits. Here are some of my admittedly poor efforts so far:
The second brief for Exercise 1.2
The following shots were taken from a monthly magazine I like called FOTO Cult – Tecnica e Cultura della Fotografia. Issue 129, p64, p69
I tried to look at these photos without thinking about eye movements, but that was almost impossible. So I asked a few volunteers to do this experiment for me. The results were inetersting and, unsurprisingly, all quite similar.
This picture proved more challenging. It’s true that everyone who partook in my mini experiment looked at the central face first (1), and that is to be expected giving our strong tendency to ‘see faces’ and always look for them for information., however, there were quite a few variations regarding the second point of attraction. Although, it has to be said, mostly everyone went to the woman’s face (must be those glasses), there was a large group who followed the hand (and its direction out of the frame to an implied audience), or the man looking back into the frame (leading the eye nicely back into the shot creating a continuity and balance (3). So, once again, faces play a dominant role here.
I couldn’t help noticing the very strong dynamic tension of this shot and the multi-directionality [I may have made that word up – I needed it!] of the shot, which you can, ahem, clearly see from the addition of the yellow lines. If we just look at the five faces within the shot (excluding background audience) then this shot is clearly very dynamic and, in my opinion, beautifully framed.
This is all well and good.
But what happens when we use a more abstract image? I was thinking that because of the strong anthropocentricity of our photos we are always going to be biased towards faces as our main source of information. So what happens when we take that reference away? What does the eye do when we no longer have those key, instinctively attactive elements that entice the eye? Do we react differently to non-human details?
Short of a nice CT, or MRI scan, I had to use the following picture.
I also tried with something more recognizable:
Here’s what people seem to do with these images:
The blue dots indicate where nearly everyone’s eyes first go, looking for that focus. They then seemed to just flash all over the red spots towards the bottom area (these quick eye movements are apparently called saccades) looking for another clear reference point, but not really hitting anything, and then quickly coming back to the brighter, focus gradient at the top of the shot (indicated by the green broken lines).
Here, we see once again the tendency for the eyes to search for focus indicated by the blue spot on the right. Many people also looked straight into the light. No one started at the top of the picture (the red dots), but that’s where their eyes fell after the blue brighter, in focus areas. Interesting.
It is said that we are pattern-seeking animals, and I can clearly see a pattern forming here: our eyes look for faces, focus and then zip over the frame looking for equilibrium, a counter balance possibly and then seem to settle back on the ‘safe zone’, being the face or focused area, or dominant shape. All this, as we can see from my rather simple experiment above, creates a pattern over the frame. Is this what Freeman (2007, pp48-50) refers to as rhythmic visual structure, and dynamic tension within the frame? I think it fits into that.
I think this also fits in with the brief’s discription of how each photograph seems to have its own tempo, a lovely turn of phrase that perfectly captures what I am feeling with this last exercise.
It has been – once again thanks to these awareness raising mini tasks – an extremely useful and thought provoking process (also lovely again to read some of Freeman’s keen insights into the dynamics of the frame and the many facets of its power). There is always something going on within (and outside) of the frame, and the better we understand those things (or at least try to) then the better we will surely be at using this medium effectively.
Freeman, M, The Photographer’s Eye, Focal Press, 2007, pp48-50.
Flickr – Photo Sharing!. (2016). Staff FOTO Cult. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/80635578@N02 [Accessed 5 Apr. 2016]. Tecnica e Cultura della Fotografia. Issue 129, p64, p69
Berger, J. and Dyer, G. (n.d.). Understanding a photograph., pp61-98, 2013