Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 14

Thread: Composition and culture

  1. #1

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    2,590

    Composition and culture

    I'm sure you've all heard of the "Rule of Thirds" in composition and aesthetic theory, and the general idea that things photographed should not be placed dead center but should be placed more on one or the other side. In flipping through a catalog of the a photography show from Iran I noticed that most photos tended to place things on the right, whereas I would have placed them on the left. The right just seemed...disconcerting and out of place for some reason. It seems to me that culture has something to do with that - As English is my primary language (my Farsi long disused) I tend to read from left to right, so placing things on the left side seems more "natural" where as Farsi is written and read from right-to-left, so placing things on the right would be more natural there. Does this make any sense?

  2. #2
    Cordless Bungee Jumper Sirius Glass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1,090

    Re: Composition and culture

    Absolutely yes.

    Steve
    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    Austin TX
    Posts
    2,052

    Re: Composition and culture

    Well, absolutely no. I have found that it is impossible to generalize in composition.

    But anyhow, for the special case where the key subject of interest occupies much less than the full space within the frame it is useful to place such to the right in the frame for right reading individuals - at least by my untrained sense. In this case one reads into the frame from the left and the eye is then held at the interest center at the right. Hence the theory of leading lines which might contain tantalizing bits of structure related to the interest center, then which are reinforced as the eye reaches the real guts of the subject somewhere to the right. I guess one could assume that Farsi speakers might respond to the reverse. Hadn't thought much about that.

    Nate Potter, Austin TX.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2006
    Posts
    2,590

    Re: Composition and culture

    Well if culture is such a determinant in composition I wonder how one would have to compose for, say, a CHinese market?

  5. #5
    Mike Anderson's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    667

    Re: Composition and culture

    A factor for me is that left to right motion is more "normal". Most track races are counter-clockwise - horses, autos, human runners, etc., so the motion (when viewed from outside the track) is left to right, and a picture with space in the direction of motion (i.e. to the right) is more comfortable. I think it's natural to want to see where the horse is going, not where it's been.

    ...Mike

  6. #6
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Seattle, Wash.
    Posts
    2,562

    Re: Composition and culture

    Rule of thirds – likely physiology.

    Left vs. Right – likely culture.

    But no matter the example, a mixture to some degree.

    Writer John Shaw in Closeups in Nature likes the first chipmunk better than the second, because the eye falls closer to the “rule of thirds” intersection. And because there’s more room in the direction of its gaze. The final image is for cultural consideration. Your choice!

    Here’s a useful thread titled “Rule of Thirds” = a useful cliché?” that I naturally remember.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails chipmunk 1.jpg   chipmunk 2.jpg  

  7. #7
    Land-Scapegrace Heroique's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    Seattle, Wash.
    Posts
    2,562

    Re: Composition and culture

    BTW, one will notice that Shaw chose “Left” at the time of his composition.

    (In case you’re curious, he doesn’t say why he chose “Left” in his book, but the chipmunk’s gaze in all likelihood determined the sitation. One wonders if Shaw waited patiently for the chipmunk to turn its gaze in the opposite direction, so he could compose more to his liking.)


  8. #8

    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Posts
    89

    Re: Composition and culture

    The culture angle is a very interesting one to me -- need to check out some Israeli photogs to see and to converse with RE: if any "rule" is prevalent or is consciously or subconsciously followed considering the direction of Hebrew reading. Thanx for making me think...

  9. #9
    Abuser of God's Sunlight
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    brooklyn, nyc
    Posts
    5,774

    Re: Composition and culture

    Robert Bringhurst, a Canadian poet and Typographer writes a bit about this in his excellent book The Elements of Typographic Style. He looks at elements of design that are common between cultures that are unlikely to have exerted any influence on each other.

    There's nothing in the stated as a rule (of thirds or anything else) but he shows several different types of proportional relationships that seem to cross cultural boundaries. Some of these are expressed in terms of fractions and in terms of corresponding musical intervals, which I find interesting. His theory is that much of this corresponds to relationships that occur commonly in nature, including properties of human scale, like the lenght of our arms relative to our field of vision.

    The idea of any of this being interpreted as rules has always troubled me. All of these proportions and relationships produce different effects—different degrees of balance and tension. It's not as if any one of them is right or wrong ... it's a question of how you want the picture to work.

    A frame divided in thirds will generally feel balanced, but with a bit more sense of dynamics than one with an object dead center. If you develop a sensitivity to form, there's no need to memorize any rules or formulae.

    I can see how they'd be useful in designing something like a template for a visual book.

    Edited to add: I think Bringhurst does mention that left / right assymetries tend to correspond with the direction of a culture's reading.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Seattle, Washington
    Posts
    3,022

    Re: Composition and culture

    Do we compose the scene as we see it before us, or as it appears on the GG (upside down and reversed)?

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •