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Ever heard of "sinister diagonals"?

Cartier-Bresson diagonals

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#1 JoJu

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 02:40 PM

Yesterday I stumbled in an interesting video:
 
"Dynamic symmetry (on dpreview), the genius of Henri Cartier-Bresson's compositions" was a very intersting lesson in composition by diagonals, verticals, horizontals and squares.

 

I was amazed by the idea, a guy could visualize this system of diagonals - and I never heard the term "sinister diagonal" before. I was drawing this grid as a vector graphics and will print it on transparent film to fix it to the LCD. Just to find out if it's helpful for me as well.

 

Nonetheless, some of Cartier-Bresson's samples to me look like a choreography of humans - I've no idea how he could visualize such a moment early enough to catch these kind of pictures.



#2 stoppingdown

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 04:00 PM

Interesting, but at the moment I can only put it on the read queue, as per most videos, until I'm back from my vacations (I fear that videos might consume my gigabytes for the month). Also because I'd like to watch them at the best quality.

 

So I can comment in general, without referring to the specific case. First, every time I read an analysis on an artist (not necessarily a photographer) that refers to some kind of schema I wonder whether:

  1. the artist was aware of the schema, I mean, whether he was explicitly using it
  2. the schema actually exists, or it's a projection of a reviewer (maybe even extreme, see one of the comments to that post: "Two words: Intellectual Masturbation").

For instance, some people analysing the Divina Commedia by Dante have found an incredible number of numeric schemata (BTW, schemata when analyzing a written text are more solid than those in a photo, where an intersection of two lines might be there, or even a bit more to the left, or the right, and maybe a different schema might apply as well). Some of the Commedia's numeric schemata have been clearly used by Dante, because they was part of the mentality of an author of the Middle Age - they were considered an effective tool such as metrics or rhyme. Others are so sophisticated that I find unbelievable they were purportedly used by Dante.

 

As a conclusion, I think that schemata - in this case grids - are mostly effective "after the fact", to study the work of a photographer, even though the grid wasn't actually used by the artist. I doubt that they can be useful to us "before the fact", that is taking the shot. I've been using grids in the VF for several years, but in the past two years - realising I've at least reached some consistency in my composition - I've removed them. I even find useful the capability of reprogramming a custom button to completely remove anything from the EVF and leave me alone with the image.

 

In my perspective, grids are more like swimming armrests: you need them to practice swimming at the beginning, but at some point they become an obstacle.

 

I'm really interested in others' perspective on the point.


stoppingdown.net

 

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#3 JoJu

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 06:01 PM

I agree about the fact that post-work interpretation sometimes leads to highly constructed correlations. But here I was surprised how often a certain grid was fitting - and in some compositions nearly mathematically precise.

 

I don't know if CB did visualize this kind of grid subconsicously or knowing what he was doing to a degree to be able to explain it to somebody else. But I'm rather curious how or if I can take pictures using some of these lines for composition.



#4 josa

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 09:59 PM

He "found out" after he made prints. You can "invent" whatever you want but you have to be famous first!!!



#5 JoJu

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Posted 21 August 2017 - 11:25 PM

Well, the grid was always the same what the guy put on the pictures - it would be either a coincidence of epic size or a lot of work to design a grid which suits to a lot excellent pictures. I think, I'll just try for myself. Take two cameras and one with a grid, the other without. First a picture jut like I feel best, then one with this grid.

 

I'll see if I like it.

 

But I doubt Ansel Adams was famous before he invented the zone system. I don't think it's that easy  ;)



#6 wim

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 01:22 PM

Total crud, and interpretation to fit a blogger's theory.

 

All it says is, at best, that CB had an intuitive view of what he liked compositionally, and managed to shoot many of his images that way, at least the one that were published. CB was an accomplished painter besides being a famous photographer, so composition certainly would be part of his baggage.

 

When I see those lines and photographs, I personally think that many of these images actually do not fit those lines, although compositionally they work.

 

As to Ansel Adams: he invented the Zone System well before he became famous, and well before he wrote about it. It is a way to get the best out of negatives and prints, and it was he technique he invented and use exactly for that reason.

 

Kind regards, Wim






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