Perspective

I was bumping around from page to page and from blog to blog, obsessively checking my email for no good reason the other day when I happened upon an interesting entry by Dups (Duleepa VerylongSriLankanNameThatICan’tRememberandRarelyCouldButAlwaysThoughtSoundedCool)  about his photography and perspective. Defintely worth a read and think-through. It got me thinking (hold the snarky comments, please) again about exactly how we see and what we like to see. For instance, I would suspect that more people will immediately gravitate to the horizontal photograph of the two below. They contain basically the same subject matter, just from different points of view.

The Queen's Battery

Battery Panorama 

The first one is more dramatic, accentuates the height of the hill and the loftiness of the position of the building (Queen’s Battery, in case you were wondering). The second shot reduces the significance of the building and accentuates the sweeping view of the city and harbour (St. John’s, Newfoundland). Frankly, the first one is the more “interesting” shot, to my mind. It’ll be interesting to see which garners the more views and interest! My bets are on the horizontal picture, just because of the fact that the eye “likes” horizontal orientation better.

Perspective and consciously using it are fascinating things, though. Most of the time, we see perspective as something that controls our reactions to things, but when you are working with landscapes, be they photographic, painted, drawn or stitched, you realise that you control the perspective that controls the way in which people see your subject matter and work. I’m not just talking about whether you can make your lines form a believable building or if your colours work properly to convey depth. I’m talking about the conscious and unconscious choices we make that allow us to manipulate an image into something more than its subject matter. Exaggerating angles, eliminating certain features, rearranging colours and shadows; all of these are modifications of “reality” that in some sense make the artistic interpretation sing.

By making decisions about display and how to hang art, we also make choices about perspective. Hang it low, and people look down into it. Hang it high and they crane their necks, trying to see. Grouping pieces draws attention away from the individual works and onto the assortment as a whole and it’s arrangement on the wall, a favourable arrangement for less powerful pieces, but not too effective for eye-catching ones, regardless of size. Lighting draws attention and can accentuate certain colours or textures in the work more than others. It’s an on-going process and doesn’t end when a piece hits the gallery wall. People take art home, hang it in their houses or offices, where its physical perspective may be entirely different. Intriguing stuff. Gets your brain ticking.

Must go and see what’s singing out from the drawing board this afternoon….

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. kim says:

    I like the first picture. It’s more dynamic, creates a lot of movement and inspires the imagination. I want to inhale it. The other, well, it’s nice to look at and I think it’s a shot many take to ‘remember’ a place.

  2. sarai says:

    Hmm…

    I like the first one because I have untrained eyes that like even less sophisticated things than you are suggesting. I remember reading that babies like black-and-white. Sure enough, the contrast of snow against the hill is the most interesting to me.

    wish I could see what you do! (:

  3. Valeri says:

    The first one has more depth as the hill defines the scale better. And its the one I like the best too as there is more detail. The second one is more of a postcard image …get as much in as you can. Interesting picture!

  4. Hm. Speaking as someone (like Vicky) to whom this is a very familiar, almost clichéd view, I like the first one, because of the contrasts as sarai said, and the dramatic lines of the south-side (left-hand) docks and the curve of the hill echo the “real” shape of the harbour. (And besides the composition, the contrast and focus is better.)

  5. Gemma Grace says:

    I think the first one is far more interesting. It immediately grabs my attention and sets my imagination free.

  6. vickyth says:

    It’s the one I’m working with in the hopes of eventually managing an original take on the view. Heather’s right – we see this basic look-off on postcards and paintings everywhere around here. Doing something novel with it is tricky. I may have to draw on some historical information for inspiration. What would the same perspective yield when seen through one of the city’s major fires in the 1800s….? (for instance)

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