I recently read a text about Aesthetic Relativism, “a Parabolic Manifesto”. If we for a moment ignore the fact that I had to dig the final page out of an html comment block, there is a lesson to be learned.
The author makes the point much better than I had managed before, the point being that taste is relative. Even if you for a moment imagine that you could somehow rank art according to how “good” it is, the ranking will only be your ranking. It is, in effect, irrelevant to everyone else, because their tastes differ. Consider this carefully when you choose to criticise someone else’s work. In the words of the “Parabolic Manifesto”:
- Remember that beauty and aesthetics are relatives NOT absolutes.
- Remember that just because a person is successful and/or famous in the arts doesn’t make her opinion divine. Example: Debussy had little use for Beethoven’s symphonies … and said so. That doesn’t make them inferior.
- Confine your comments to observables rather than tastes. Example: “To me this picture tends to fragment into two unrelated halves. The shore is all in tans; the water and sky is all in blues; and nothing binds them together for me. Is this intentional? Do you see it that way?”
- Absolutely ban any comment more negative than: “That doesn’t work for me - can you show me what I’m not seeing?”
Another way of putting it might be: If you don’t have anything potentially constructive to say about a photo, you might want to keep your taste in photos to yourself.
Lately, I have tried to think about composition when I shoot. It’s not easy – there is a lot to be learned. There are too many web pages dedicated to technical details about cameras, or naïve descriptions of the “rule of thirds”. There are too few excellent sources for learning about composing a picture.
Digging through my link collection, I found at least the Daystar Lessons in Composition for the Art Photographer and CJ Morgan’s article On Composition to be valuable. They have at least one thing in common – the rule of thirds does not rank high among the ways to compose a photograph.
Principles to guide you in composing your photographs, according to the works above.
- Kill the clutter
- Think graphic design
- Dark on light and light on dark
- Be mindful of relationships
- Shoot not object, but appearance
- Unity vs. fragmentation
- Rhyme, repetition, and rhythm
- Lines of attention
- Symmetry vs. asymmetry
- Centre(s) of interest
- Complexity vs. simplicity
- Anything else that occurs to you!
A final quote, taken from Daystarvision’s article Composition in the
Field for the Art Photographer:
Even with a zoom lens you still have to walk
closer in or farther back to leverage perspective.
In this time of excellent zooms, don’t forget that perspective does not
change when you zoom.