ITAP Lecture 5

For our fifth ITAP lecture, Research and The design Process were our primary subjects of interest. These include five key principles of which I will choose two and expand using examples of both my and other artists work.

Legibility, is what makes a particular thing stand out or not in any visual communication. It can be a very useful tool if the communicator wishes to enhance something in his work or disguise a subtlety. However, misuse can lead to disorientation for the viewer or missing the point all together.

I decided to illustrate this principle in photography by expressing the background-subject relationship in monochrome portraits.

Image 2

Image 1

The background should be an important part of any portrait because it can enhance of hide different characteristics of the subject. A dark background will direct attention to the subject and it`s light areas such as the skin. This can be useful if, for instance, one wishes to emphasize certain facial aspects but leave out things like clothing of hair. As seen in Image 1, dark or dark gray background tends to decrease contrast and give a smoother, more relaxed appearance.

On the other hand, a bright background will bring contrast to someone dressed in black clothes, such as in Image 2. This will give a strong first impression and attract any viewer to that image, regardless of what it contains. It is similar to black type on white background giving the best possible legibility. This scenario will also hide from the viewer`s sight details of the subject`s face, since the eye is at first attracted by the dark zones, these standing out the most.

Of course, bright background can also be used with a light subject, as in Image 3, to give a more subtle contour. This happens because the eye is easily confused by the slight difference in tone and doesn`t quite realize which is which. contrast is still high because the background tends to lightup the portrait and dark areas are even darker.

Image 3

Another key principle is Visual Hierarchy. It`s a rather straightforward concept, illustrating the order in which a viewer sees different elements of a visual image. This can be useful is the author wishes the public to have a certain understanding of his work.

Henri Cartier-Bresson 1952

For example, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, caught in 1952 an image that fully uses this principle.The picture uses hierarchy of different elements to inform the viewer about the location, the subject and finally the mood.

Because in the Occidental part of the world people read from left to right, we see and interpret a photograph in the same way. In this case, the top left corner is occupied by a crossing of lines, immediately drawing attention to this point and easily letting the viewer know that he`s looking at a picture made from the Eiffel Tower (the image being part of the “Apropos de Paris” series), disguised as a visual sign.

The eye then descends along the line until faced with another intersection that reveals the main subject: a couple walking. This gives a somewhat romantic feel to the image, something further accentuated by the wet and contrasty surface that is last seen in the lower part.

When used properly, these two principles can yield dramatic results or sometimes help state the intention of the image. However, care must be taken as they can also distract the viewer or quickly confuse if not used correctly.

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