Commission 07: Lining Down

Gallery Couple. © Knut Skjærven

Gallery Couple. © Knut Skjærven

Here is the 7th commission. We are progressing good.

I have called it Lining Down to play with the words from a former commission labeled Lining Up.

This commission is in the same category and has to do with establishing a focal point in photographs. May I suggest that you simply read the brief to Commission 06: Lining Up as a starter? So we have the same starting point?

Lining Down means that you do not work with strong lines to get the viewer/ reader of your photograph where you want him. You leave the lines out, hence Lining Down.

Take a look at the accompanying photograph: Gallery Couple. Sure there are lines in this image too. Even a strong line going horizontally in the upper part of the picture. It leads from the left to the couple at the right. It stresses the visual importance of the two people studying the photographs on the wall. But that is about the only important physical line there is in this photo.

This is what I call a filled line. It is there for all to see.

That said, there are also plenty of invisible lines. Like there always are in pictures.  For instance the ones going from corner to corner, in parallel with the 4 sides, and mixes between them. These lines are invisible and do only exists as such.

These are what we will call empty lines. They are not there other than as options.

Getting more advanced you could say there are even more complex lines based on compositional traditions and expectation. Like the golden rectangle, a divine proportion, etcetera. Those would also be empty lines.

Leaving all those aside, the point is that most of this image is a void. Meaning, that it mostly consists of a grey, concrete floor. Anything moving or sticking out is what draws the attention. There is not much informational noise to disturb the simple visual message.

Leaving out noise is just another way to secure a focal point. No lines needed to take you where you I want to. Quite the opposite: You line down.

My suggestion is: While you are out there looking for strong lines leading to a focal point as a completion of the commission on Lining Up, look for Lining Down scenes as well. I am sure that you will find both types.

Something extra: You have probably heard of tracking eye movements in visual messages. It means that your track the movement the eyes make when studying a picture. Where do you come in, where do you progress  and what gets most of the attention? Questions like that are asked and answered by tracking eye movement. I have seen quite a few of those tracking schemes. Enough to make some best guesses of how eye movements may  make their way in photographs.

I remember three things.

The first is that eyes follow lines. That would mean that you would see an eye track along the horizontal line in the photograph above.

The second is that is that not much time is spent on empty spaces that by definition does not contain much information. Like the floor covering two thirds of this photograph.

The third is, as you have guess already, I am sure, that eyes tend to spent time where there are interesting things happening. That is in the upper right corner of this image. Definitely time is spent on the young couple and the pictures on the wall. Not only because there is information available, something to feed the brain, but also because the two seem to take an active interest in what is going on around them. They are engaged. Him with studying the photograph, her gazing off to a different place.

What would a track of eye movement result in in this image? My best guess: Concentrations will be on the couple and on the photographs one the wall. There will be lapses along the horizontal line where the floor meets the wall, and also to other parts of the image that breaks the monotony of the empty space. Like the square in the floor. Some energy will be used there. As I said, my best guess.

To sum up:

If you want to take (some) control over how a person uses energy in viewing a photograph there are at least two ways you could go about that. One, you could direct the viewer to a focal point by leading him/her with a strong line structure and minimal visual disturbances. Or, you could get rid of as much access information as possible creating an empty space and have something, like the couple in this picture, stand out.

My suggestion is that you take a couple of pictures illustration the principle of lining down. When you have done so, load them to the internet somewhere, and link to that somewhere from a comment to this post.

Good luck with it :-).

Have a good day.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved: text and picture.

December 19, 2012.


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  1. #1 by elisam75 on December 19, 2012 - 7:44 pm

    This is so interesting! And now that complete the commission 6 perfectly :-)…. That was planned wasn’t it?
    I hope I can concretize that.

    • #2 by Knut Skjaerven on December 19, 2012 - 10:36 pm

      Yes, now you are ready to fly :-). Good luck with it. Thanks.

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