Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not As Victorian

Here's some more examples, while I am on a roll.
Cartier-Bresson strikes me as much more, um, Modernist or something might be the word. He's commonly understood to lean heavily on surrealism, and to have a painterly quality in his layouts. The look is not painterly in the sense that it looks like brushwork, but it is painterly in the way it deals with the subject matter.

This one is dark on the bottom, light above, but I feel like the transition is to abrupt to really fit the Victorian template. But note the repetition of "little areas of dark tone" with the windows and the heads, especially, obviously, the hat and the windows, which all seems to me to product unity. But note also the dappling of light across the darker toned boys. There's an overall balance to the scattering of shapes, but the pattern is not strict, producing a feel of variety.

Here again we see that abrupt transition from light to dark, which creates balance just as well as the Victorian gradation, but which looks and feels quite different. Honestly, it feels photographic. It's extremely hard to produce a really hard line with paints. Mondrian used tape. Repetition of shapes, light monocle in dark face, light figure in dark background, etc. You get the idea by now, I assume.

For further examples, I can point you to pretty much everything Weston shot. I'd include some here, but it would be all peppers and nudes.

Weston rarely seems to have messed about with that gradation from light to dark. There's repeated shapes, and dappling of light in dark and vice versa simply everywhere in his pictures, but squinting tends to produce more of an abstract pattern, with light and dark evenly distributed with pleasing variety across the frame, unity often as not created by isolating the frame to contain only one or two things, and of course, things generally in balance.

Squint at a Weston, and it tends to look pretty similar right side up or upside down.

Mike over at ToP showed us this delightfully unbalanced frame a few days ago:

(you could argue that it's balanced in some ways, I suppose, but there are certainly ways in which it's decidedly off-kilter). The unbalance, to my eye, helps support a sense of urgency. Almost any photo forum would advise cropping off the left third of the frame, or a bit more, which would bring the frame in to balance and completely botch it. Not that there are still interesting patches of tone, the nearest face and the black ... thing.. up in the sky upper right, and so on.

These things all look more essentially photographic than, say, Adams, Emerson, Robinson, or even Salgado.

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