Then Go Strain Yourself

Defactor On The Beach © Knut Skjærven

Defactor On The Beach © Knut Skjærven

One point comes with a special interest. It goes like this:

Gestalt psychology is a descriptive discipline. Hypotheses are backed by clinical tests and backed by simple common sense. It describes the way of the world and gives good explanations of how people perceive visual stimuli.

Yes, an understanding of what gestalt factors are, how and why they work is imperative knowledge for people who deals with visual communication. Like photographers. Like street photographers.

But gestalt factors are tools. No more no less. They are not end results. It is up to the individual photographer to understand and use these tools.

Tools in themselves have no value unless you put them to clever use.  The factor of proximity, the factor of similarity, the other factors point to roads of creativity but are no end destinations.

Learning about gestalt factors in street photography gives extra benefits because once you know how perception works, you are in a position to create visual tension by going against the factors.

Every gestalt factor has its tension mode. The tension mode of proximity is non proximity; the tension mode of similarity is non similarity; the tension mode common fate is non common fate, and so on.

However, you will never know what tension mode is before you understand what the non tension mode is. You need to know the way of the world before you start to stain it (create tension).

Creating itching images is not always best served by plainly following gestalt factors. In some cases you get better off by straining the way of the world. By doing this you defactor.

The expression gestalt vision covers both these approaches. Both the tension mode and its opposite. Both the gestalt factors and the way to strain them by defactoring.

What does a defactored photograph look like then? Translated to the world of street photography? As there are many gestalt factors defactors can have many variants. Let me suggest a few.

In proximity introduce non proximity; in similarity introduce non similarity; in common fate introduce non common fate; in closure introduce non closure. I already suggested this.

All of this is pretty easy because all of us do defactored images all the time. They are often more easily taken than factored images.

This being so why all this fuzz about it?  Why mention it as all? For the same reason I mention gestalt factors. Setting words to things sharpen our senses. You cannot see things that have no meaning. Things that have no names have no meaning. That’s why.

Look at the photo above. It is there to make a point: There are two sets of similarities in the photograph. The first one is the sand. The second one is the chairs. You can strain both by, so to speak, breaking the visual waves, and introducing, as in this case, a human being.

It is not a question of which photo is better: the strained one or the non strained one without the woman (you have to imagine this). The matter of the fact is that the two are different. In stead of one tool you have been given two.

Think about it. Then go strain yourself.

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

Copenhagen, July 11, 2013.


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