Friday, July 27, 2012

Three Dimensionality

I've been reading The Age of Insight by Eric Kandel for quite a few days. It's not a work to rush through. I can read only three or four pages at a time before I find I have to put the book down and think about and absorb what I've read. It's an exceptional book for anyone who wants to understand how our brains perceive and process visual art and stimuli.

The challenge for an artist or photographer is to present material that is rendered in two dimensions - length and width - and still create the illusion of depth. One of the greatest artistic revelations of the Renaissance was the concept of perspective and depth perception. It developed steadily through the 19th Century until artists such as Cezanne, Picasso, Bonnard, Gaugin, Van Gogh, and Matisse decided to rid themselves of the shackles of dimensionality. 

Kandel makes the point that the human eye, at a distance of more than 10 feet, perceives the world two dimensionally and passes that two dimensional information into the brain of the viewer which then reinterprets the data to recreate the third dimension based on our unconscious learned perceptions of the world around us. 

My aim as a photographer when creating an image is to give as much (or as little) information as is necessary to entice the viewer to see what I want to be seen in the way I want it to be seen. I took this shot on Fifth Avenue during lunchtime, when the sidewalk was jammed with people. It was a hip shot (I would have much preferred to have gotten the woman on the right with her whole arm in the frame, but such are the tribulations when shooting from the hip) with my Fuji X-Pro1 using the 18mm lens, at 1/250th second, f8, ISO 800. The critical vertical line in the image is the edge of the church about a quarter of the way into the image from the left. From that line the perspective drops off deeply to the left (into the dark), and more shallowly to the right and that composition defines the perspective of the image. The two people in the foreground of the image are on an extended plane from the left side of the church, and are brought forward in the image by the receding background behind them. 

I'd like to say that this was all carefully thought out when I took the shot. But it wasn't. It was a lucky hip shot. The more you get out to shoot and experiment, the more likely it is that shots like this will happen. I know it may be rude of me, bu t I call this shot 'The dork and the doll'.

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