To understand a spoken language, we break it down to its alphabets which eventually connect to make words which connect to make a sentence.
To understand photographic language, I believe we need to break it down to its basic elements and understand each element in detail on the role it plays individually and as a part of a bigger image. This is what I hope to achieve in my new personal photography project, Elements.
It’s one thing for me to read, learn and eventually speak about these elements in a theoretical sense but it is another challenge to purposely go out and photograph each of these elements in their natural settings. The latter provides a deeper level of understanding about the elements which I can’t get from purely reading a book or two on the subject.
Consider the most basic element of composition and visual design – the line. Just about every composition blog post on the internet talks about the line in photographic composition but most of these posts only scratch the surface and it is usually about the line providing depth in a photography (which is certainly true). But most of these blogs leave a lot of questions about line unanswered.
Consider the following questions.
- How do horizontal/vertical/diagonal impact the photograph?
- How do the curves, including the S curves impact the photograph?
- What impact does the thickness of the each of the lines have on the photograph?
- What impact does the colour of each of the lines have on the photograph?
- How do lines work in a black and white photo?
- How do lines work in different aspect ratios e.g. 3:2 to 1:1 or 4:3?
- How do repeating lines work?
- How do repeating line conflicting lines impact the image?
- How do implied lines work?
I could really go on and on.
And all these questions are just one about one element – line. When you consider the other elements of photographic compositions – shape, form, light, exposure, colour, balance, visual mass, aspect ratios, the possibilities (and questions) are endless – especially when different elements start to come together in an image.
So I’ve set myself a challenge – to go out and capture the basic elements of photographic composition. To break photographic composition down to its raw materials.
I don’t hope to be able to answer all of the questions I have about these elements; instead, I just hope to achieve a slightly deeper understanding than what I have now.
Simplicity is the key constraint for this project. I’ll be photographing the element in simple and minimalist compositions. I also hope that these images will have merit on their own and not necessarily just in the context of this project.