reflecting anxiety/ subject looking left or right?

Discussion in 'Photographic Aesthetics and Composition' started by Voyager, Aug 12, 2007.

  1. Voyager

    Voyager Subscriber

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    Earlier I posted a question regarding flipping a negative in the enlarger, and I received some good responses. That was a technical thing. Here's the subjective reason for my need to flip the negative.

    My subject is very alone in a hospital waiting room, full body, centered, looking to the right, and clearly apprehensive both in facial expression and body language. She occupies a little more than 1/3 of the rectangular frame, with equal space and waiting-room chairs on either side of her. As I looked at the 4X6 from the lab (prior to enlarging) I strongly felt that flipping the negative, and having her face to the left heightened the sense of anxiety. My plan is to face her left, and crop 1/2 the space on her right, throwing her off center, peering toward the unknown. The point, or rather the question: can it be that emotions like anxiety, dread, fear are better expressed by simply looking left rather than right . Or...is...it...just...me? (What would Alfred Hitchcock do?)
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    There is a natural tendency amongst people to read visual input from left to right, top to bottom (if you are raised in a western culture, where that is the direction of writing). Things that break this flow create tension. I remember this from an example that was pointed out to me in a high school english lit class where we were watching "Deliverance": the opening scene shows dumptrucks hauling dirt from background to foreground, lower right to upper left. Watching this direction of movement makes your skin crawl for no immediately obvious reason.
     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    I have a 1950's book of photography which shows two images on facing pages. They are actually the same image, one the correct way round and the other reversed.

    The scene is nothing spectacular, just an rough road with a fence down one side and a couple of old houses down the other side.

    To me, one image seems to be a very warm and inviting safe place to be whereas the other gives me a feeling of being exposed and in danger.

    I find it strange that just flipping over the image can give two opposite messages.

    Steve.
     
  4. Kino

    Kino Member

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    I think you are correct in your assumptions, but wonder if you shouldn't crop the LEFT side, making her crowd the left margin, creating tension in the viewer by having her uncomfortably close to the Left edge?

    It is a common technique, but without seeing the subject matter, I cannot say if it would help or hurt the intent of the photo.

    As Flyingcamera states, how we interpret weights and balances in compositions is largely determined by the direction our cultures read text on a page.

    If your eye is accommodated and eased along the path of it's initial transit across the image, the viewer's experience tends to subliminally be more relaxed as they interpret the image, no matter the subject matter.

    However, if your eye is abruptly halted, made to reverse or deflect and is constantly frustrated in smoothly scanning the image, it can set up a visual tension that can cause a subliminal tension or frustration, again, regardless of subject matter.

    That is, of course, only a small portion of what defines the dynamic of a composition, but it is an important one.
     
  5. Voyager

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    amazing replies...so there really is something to my perception! Kino...I will take your advice and try the left crop before taking down the negative...
     
  6. argus

    argus Member

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    I don't know about anxiety, but looking to the right shows a positive mind, pointing toward the future.

    G
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Argus-

    that's a cultural conceit, insisting that the "future" be to the right.

    It's also a right-handedness bias. To a certain extent, this is expected, since 90 % of the people on earth are right-handed. But just because it's expected, doesn't make it "right" :D .
     
  8. argus

    argus Member

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    Oh, I'm sorry I'm European :wink::D For you Americans the past is lies to the right :tongue:

    That's the way it was always told to me.
    A possible proof lies in the fact that one of the companies I worked for adopted a new logo with a head facing left. It went broke within the year. :rolleyes:

    On the other hand, expectations make up a lot in symbology.

    G
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

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    Argus- I meant it is not just a Euro conceit, it is a western cultural conceit. I don't know what the standard in Asian cultures or African cultures is.
     
  10. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    As to American "conceit".

    I have before me four different US coins and four different US currencies.

    Note:

    Coins:

    Penny (one cent to the dollar): Lincoln facing rightwards
    Nickel (five cents to the dollar): Jefferson facing left
    Dime (ten cents to the dollar): Franklin D. Roosevelt facing left
    Quarter (twenty-five cents to the dollar): Washington facing left.

    Currency:

    One Dollar Bill: Washington - glancing to the right
    Five Dollar Bill: Lincoln - glancing to the right
    Ten Dollar Bill: Alexander Hamilton - looking to the left
    Twenty Dollar Bill: Andrew Jackson glancing to the right

    Seems as if portrayers of American icon images are all over the place on cultural conceit. :wink:
     
  11. Kino

    Kino Member

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    Yes, let me know how that works out!