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Thread: Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    Watching the movie Dogville on DVD, I was intrigued by some comments of director Lars Von Trier. He talks about the difference between framing an image, the typical approach of arranging stuff in a balanced, pretty, thoughtful way, and what he calls pointing, i.e. pointing the camera at what is important dramatically, to the story. Pointing of course tends to put the primary subject in the center of the image, while framing is more concerned with the arrangement of the background/secondary subjects around the edges. His idea is that in terms of telling a story, framing introduces an added level of artificiality that dilutes or obscures the story telling.

    LVT of course is shooting a moving image, in real time, and using a nervous, panning, hand-held camera and constant focus pulls, so when he says "pointing" it means just that, pointing. And he is telling a 3 hour story. How relevant are these thoughts to the (relatively) static world of large format? In general, how much can we learn from film makers?

    Is it possible to ignore framing when creating an LF image? Well, if you allow cropping, then no. Maybe the best that can be done is to develop an "anti-framing" approach to framing, to achieve that "pointed-at" look. Of course that would be only more artificial, but then again I don't care about artificiality, or truth, or story telling, in a still image.

    Just the musings of a Monday morning...

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    A few weeks ago "Zorba the Greek" was on TV. As a fan of B&W watching this movie is like a masters class in photography. Just about every scene was composed, framed and lit like an award winning still. Casablanca is another lesson in advanced photography.

    I guess it's my bias but I can't think of any color movie that a still from it would reach the level called art.

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    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    From a film maker's perspective, I think the compositional choice is a matter of style, and how the choice of style is influenced by the nature of the film's subject matter. "Pointing" gives the film a sense of immediacy, I think, and may be more appropriate for stories with higher "grit" factors. In contrast, many of the films that are considered to be "classics" tend to follow more traditional composition styles, resulting in each frame of the film being a good, traditionally-composed still. With the former, sitting in the front row of the theater allows the film's viewer to get absorbed into the scene. With the latter, it works both on the screen and as a small print.

    With still photography, the edges of the print create the frame, so I think frame-oriented composition makes more sense - whether one is trying to tell a story, or just capture a scene.

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    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    I think the concerns are similar in both film and photography. Still photographers who pointed include avedon, dianne arbus, and the bechers. in theatre, you could say that bertold brecht believed in pointing. his style was "presentational," as opposed to representational. instead of someone acting like an army general, for example, that person would stand centerstage and would in one way or another be presented as a general. in all cases, the idea is to remove any sense that we are witnessing an artifice, just as others have said. the 1960s street photographers who hated beautiful prints had similar beliefs--if the photograph is "real" then it won't look like "art." after all, how can anyone hold the camera steady while he's dodging bullets? how can anyone take the time to make a luxurious print when the world needs to know now?

    I've always been interested in the ways these outer clues--presentation, context, surface esthetics, etc. can be used to illuminate what a particular work is supposed to be about.

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    Jim Rhoades,

    I certainly agree with your evaluation of the B&W films, "Casablanca" and Zorba the Greek".

    I can think of two movies made with color film that (IMHO) reach a level of art, "Doctor Zhivago" and "Out of Africa". Those two films are a study in fine motion picture photography. Framing each image, similar to a still photograph. Of course, the outstanding ability of the actors added to the total effect.

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    austin granger's Avatar
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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    This is very interesting. I think I use both the 'framing' and 'pointing' styles, but of late tend more toward the latter. I often now find myself backing away from my subject (frequently centered) and in a sense, 'emptying' my frame. Of course, that's against 'the rules' (big quotes there) but I find it can be very effective in conveing a certain mood; that of dissonance and distance and strangeness and quietude and loneliness.

    Anyway, I honestly didn't jump on this thread to shamelessly promote my own stuff, but I just put up a post about updating my website, and I think if you're interested in this topic, you might check it out. Specifically, I'm thinking of images like the one I made of a water heater in the 'Point Reyes II' gallery, along with alot of others in that vein.

    www.austingranger.com

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    The finest motion picture photography I've ever seen is by far, Woody Allen's "Manhatten." If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself tospend a quiet night with it. And yes, it's in b/w.

    Many of my compositions are "pointed," with the suject in the middle; I often prefer the simplicity and directness of it. Two days ago it took me aout twenty minutes to point my 8x10 at something just right. (Can't wait to develop the negatives and see how much dust was in the filmholder...)
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    A couple of excellent motion pictures of the "framed" variety are Citizen Kane and The Third Man, both by Orson Wells. Kane has some breath taking framing, while The Third Man has one of the best entrances in all of film.

    As to my work, I find myself very much drawn toward framing. I seldom, if ever, point now that I'm not hand holding.

    Bruce Watson

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    Abuser of God's Sunlight
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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    another point worth bringing up about pointing ...
    it's the vernacular style of picture taking. even the term "taking" a picture implies pointing.
    most of the world's snapshots are the products of pointing.
    the implication of this picture structure is that there's a discreet subject, distinct from everything else.
    the pendulum periodically swings toward and away from this way of structuring a picture.
    It's not suprising that few people here identify with pointing ... it's not a way of seeing that would typically attract someone to a large format camera (although there are always exceptions).

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    Aesthetics: Framing vs. Pointing

    I think the idea of "pointing" the way it has been discussed in the original post is a dangerous one. By necessity, photography (motion & still) must impose a frame on the world in front of it. We all make choices either implicitly or explicitly about what to include or exclude, how to expose etc. every time we make an exposure. Ultimately these decisions affect how the image is "decoded" by the viewer.

    Some people shoot from the hip and others take a more calulated approach. However, we must realize that when we view someone elses images we are seeing a representation of the world and not a document of Truth. That representation (photograph or moving picture) has been influenced by numerous factors including the views and beliefs of the person holding the camera as well as technical considerations and choices made by the same.

    My argument contends that "pointing" is a largely an aesthetic frame. It's a style we often see in newspapers and TV news. However, it is no less "documentary" than other means, and more often than not it is being used to further an agenda, or at least has been coloured by the person(s) creating the images.

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