To add to your set of examples of horizontal and vertical lines, now take four photographs which use diagonals strongly.
– AoP Coursebook
REPORT ON MANTLEPIECES
As a first test of your powers of observation, try the following:-
Write down in order from left to right, all the objects on your mantlepiece, mentioning what is in the middle.
Then make lists for mantlepieces in other people’s houses, giving in each case a few details about the people concerned, whether they are old, middle-aged or young, whether they are well off or otherwise, What class (roughly) they belong to. Send these lists in.
If possible, also take photographs of mantlepieces.
Directive to New Observers – Mass Observation c.1937
Reading Picturing Ourselves (p 93, Wells), I remembered the note I made of the Directive to New Observers at the Mass Observation exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery (Aug-Sep, 2013) at much the same time as I found myself identifying with Humphrey Spender’s description of himself on page 94, as an outsider exploiting others while picturing them. This exercise – create a still life and at the same time create a network of points – seemed a good way to combine that identification with an attempt to start characterising who the me who takes photographs is. Also, the amount of stuff from holidays, work trips etc etc that had silted up on the mantlepiece needed dusting and thinning out. I decided to clear everything off and start again, building up a still life from some of the things that were there as I went.
I’ve been taking pictures in both landscape and portrait throughout this section of the course (and # 4 is entirely portrait) and while I haven’t specifically gone out and done a 20 pictures both ways shoot, I think I’ve thought about which format suits a picture for pretty much each exercise I have done.
Also, looking back through the latest hundred and ten pictures I’ve posted to flickr, I see that about two thirds are landscape, a sixth are portrait and a sixth square.
I think the four to one ratio of landscape to portrait is as much down to the slight clumsiness of using a camera rotated through 90 degrees, rather than any inherent dislike of tall thin pictures, as I seem to remember that any time I’ve used a half-frame 35mm camera (which take two portrait ratio pictures on each frame) the majority have been portrait rather than landscape. A lot of it comes down I think – like an unwillingness to change prime lenses, particularly with screw thread fittings rather than bayonet, or to get out my tripod – to my laziness, something I am trying consciously to overcome over the course of AoP. But then, another thought on this – and I’ve just spent 5 minutes playing with a camera, trying both eyes and rotating the camera each way – that it is possible that the awkwardness of using a camera rotated through 90 degrees may be greater for right-eyed, right-handed people, while I’m left-eyed and left-handed – certainly, the keyboard shortcuts for rotating an image generally are more faffy for doing so the way I generally have to (anti-clockwise, I think) leading me to think that most people twist the camera the other way, which certainly feels much less natural than the way I do. Which is some compensation at least for not being able to do the ‘keeping your left eye open, looking for the next shot while your right eye looks through the viewfinder sited towards the left-hand-side of a Leica’ thing, that Joel Meyorowitz does in The Genius of Photography…
The 1/3 that are square ones – and I should say here while we’re on questions of format, that I rather like square pictures and feel there are loads of things that suit the huge range of symmetries that are available to you – are all medium format, from 6×6 negatives and positives, and simply show that I’ve been playing with a variety of mf cameras recently, rather than that I’m cropping stuff down from rectangles into squares, but anyway, cropping’s a different post entirely…
I’m going to park this one for now, as I’m struggling with the ‘relative weight of things’ v ‘how far they are from the edge of the frame-ness’ of all this. I am fine with ideas like the the golden section or the rule of thirds, but turning it all into little weights on a balance diagrams is something I find really hard (even though I think the pictures I’m looking at are balanced). Rather than get stuck here, I think I’ll come back to this after doing some more reading on Gestalt, Golden Sections and that, if I have time…
But here are some the pictures (all taken around the taking of photos for the other exercises) that I was going to use:
I have particular difficulty with doing this exercise with portrait format images by the way (even though I don’t have a problem with swapping the camera through 90 degrees) – not sure why…