Here is part 3 of the story behind my image, “Diptych, Touch the Earth, Touch the Sky,” shown above.
Well, on one level, there’s not much to tell, really. When I saw the two images “Touch the Earth” and “Touch the Sky” that I had taken separately, I knew I had to put them together in a diptych. I cropped each image square (because I prefer the proportions of equal-sized panels in diptychs, triptychs, and the like), increased the overall contrast of the combined image a little, and voila – not much work at all.
But on another level, I think this image has a lot to say. First, while I think the individual images “Touch the Earth” and “Touch the Sky” that I used to make this diptych are strong images that stand well on their own, I also think the diptych is more than the sum of these two parts. I believe that putting these two images together, in this format, makes a statement that is unique to itself and independent from the component images. For example, there is a new composition to consider: the form of the trees creates a symmetry across the two panels, and the whites and blacks of the foregrounds and backgrounds are analogous, but reversed, in the two panels. The subject matter, too, invites a comparison and contrast that is not available in the individual images alone, for example a consideration of the sky and earth motifs within and between the individual panels, and the relationship of the trees to each. Of course, I also hope the image simply is pleasing to look at!
Second, I think there is much to consider on the subject of framing. As a photographer, my guess is that well over half of the photography I see is presented in a horizontal 3:2 aspect ratio (I believe this is the typical aspect ratio of 35 mm film). Much of the remainder is in a vertical 3:2 aspect ratio. It is much rarer that I see square aspect ratios, panoramic aspect ratios, or other kinds of aspect ratios, and it is even rarer that I see diptychs, triptychs, or presentations having multiple panels.
I wonder why this is? Since it is relatively easy to capture an image with a camera, it seems to me that photographers are uniquely positioned to create works that push the dimensions of traditional framing, be it by experimenting with aspect ratios, panels, or the like. Moreover, I might suggest that, given how ubiquitous the horizontal 3:2 aspect ratio is, images presented in alternative formats add an extra element that contributes to making the image more interesting. This is not to say that a bad image presented in a non-traditional framing will become good, nor that a good image in a horizontal 3:2 aspect ratio is bad. I’m saying only that the framing is an important component in the composition of photographic images, and that it can be used with a high degree of creativity to add to the impact of the image.
Here’s another example of this principle. I don’t print many 8.5×11 images for display. Why? It’s not because 8.5×11 is too small. Indeed, one of my personal favorite formats to print in are small, 5×5 square images. No, it’s because all day long, in the course of handling ordinary business, I look at document after document printed on 8.5×11 paper. I’m sure this is the case for most people. To me, an image printed on 8.5×11 paper loses a little bit of appeal, just because I see the 8.5×11 format all the time. It’s just so ordinary.
Is there a takeaway here? If so, maybe it’s just to think creatively about presenting your images. Why not start with the framing?
Edit: I forgot to bring up in my original post, but meant to, that I believe Brooks Jensen at Lenswork Daily makes a similar point here, worth checking out!