This second line project considers the use of lines to flatten the pictorial space in contrast to using line to create depth. A photograph using depth and perspective often looks like a recording, a representation of what was seen by the viewer; this provides a journalistic or pictorial image. In contrast, flattening perspective can be used to create abstraction and the image often becomes the thing itself and no longer a recording or representation of a viewed reality. Laszlo Moholoy-Nagy used the new at the time 35mm camera to adopt different viewpoints, such as looking straight down, to create flat abstractions.
Ralph Gibson in his 1980s photo series “The Black Series” created abstract images, devoid of colour and mostly devoid of grey to create images which are about the pictures themselves. We are not asked to consider what these images represent, instead we consider the images as themselves and enjoy their abstract form. Below are two images from this series.
For my own images I experimented with keeping the sensor plane parallel with the image, getting up close, mostly using a telephoto lens, avoiding vanishing lines and looking for rhythms of shape repetition within each image to create interest for the viewer of the images.
In the first image I used a 35mm (equivalent) slightly wide angle lens and had to tip the camera up slightly so while the image is flat there is a very slight inclusion of perspective. In addition the inclusion of sky (out of focus) in the top corner prevents full abstraction in the image and it is apparent that this is a picture of a shed.
In the next threee images I used an 85mm (equivalent) short telephoto lens. The sensor plane is also parallel with the image in all three images and I have been careful to avoid any distractions outside the tight image frame to maintain the sense of abstraction. The last image uses the gently curving lines of rusting corrugated iron to create the lines.
To further enhance the abstraction in the images above I have chosen the 2nd and 3rd images and converted to black and white and enhanced contrast to see how this affects how we might view the image.
The first image uses Eric Kim Tri-X 1600 present 24 and the second uses Eric Kim Tried-X 1600 preset 21.
The removal of colour and tone does increase the degree of abstraction and is particular effective in the first image, In the second image, the higher proportion of midtone renders the change quite differently and perhaps the colour version is more successful as the rhythm of colour works quite effectively in the first colour version of this image.
Contrasting parts (1) and (2) of the Line Project
It is clear that using depth and perspective gives a documentary eye to the image viewed. It is generally more obvious that the image is a photograph intended to represent what was there (reportage) or provide a pictorialist representation of the scene in a similar way to a pictorialist painter may have chosen to paint a scene.
In contrast, the flattened approach to photography most often provides degrees of abstraction, in extent depending on the photographer’s intention or technique, which subvert the documentary tendency and present the image as the thing itself and not a representation of a scene viewed by the photographer and viewer of the image. This lifts the status of the image from documentary evidence arguably to art in that the image itself is all that actually matters and not the technique, subject or viewpoint.
1,2 Ralph Gibson – http://www.ralphgibson.com/1980-black-series.html (accessed January 2018)
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.26