The Difference Of Difference

The Difference © Knut Skjærven

The Difference © Knut Skjærven

There is always a difference. There has to be.

Not only is it founded in many human beings that they want to make a difference in their lives.

Even in a much more basic way there needs to be a difference.  A black panther with his eyes shut cannot be seen in a black tunnel, nor can a blue butterfly against a similar blue sky.

In photography the difference of light is paramount since it makes things be seen at all. So in street photography. Rudolf Arnheim, has an expression that I quite enjoy. He says: “Similarity is the prerequisite for the noticing of differences”. So very true, and that is why we are going to use it here. In a special way.

Two of the main themes (but not the only ones) in this toolbox is what we call Itching Images and Gestalt Factors. They link together by the fact that a few gestalt factors feed and provide a larger number of Itching Models. So it seems.

What are the gestalt factors? They are proximity, similarity, common fate, direction, good curve, closure, and past experience. These are the ones that we have chosen to deal with.

We can now ask some very simple questions. What is the main difference of each gestalt factor? What is that which makes it stand out and able to be seen at all. Let’s go for a special type of difference: the opposite, the negation, of each factor.

Meaning what?

Meaning this: the opposite of proximity is non proximity; the opposite of similarity is non similarity; the opposite of common fate is non common fate, the opposite of direction is non direction, the opposite of good curve is non good curve; the opposite of past experience is non past experience. The opposite of closure is non closure. Right?

Let’s have these poles as a framework and not decide if the framework if of use for photography/street photography yet.

The reason why I tend to think that it might be helpful is that complying with gestalt factors alone takes you nowhere. It is only the beginning of the road. Gestalt factors is a way to understand how innate groupings take place. How innate perceptions take place. Only building on top of that might render good photography. Such an on top of that might be using the opposite pole of a factor in photography. In a context of similarity you introduce non similarity, you introduce non proximity, etcetera.

Let’s face is: In a photograph where everything is similar you might end up being very bored. Taken to extreme you are looking at a black panther in a black tunnel. Eyes shot. Or a blue butterfly agains a blue sky. You will hardly see it. Introducing a difference might not only be good for creativity but for seeing something at all.

Don’t do anything about it yet. But do think about it.

It might be that the difference of difference is what really will make a difference. In your street photography.

Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen, June 6, 2013.

This post is in category Something Extra.



  1. #1 by elisam75 on June 6, 2013 - 12:32 pm

    Struggled with this!!! Thanks for this beautiful post and shot!

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