Well, it’s that time again! A time I dread because of my relative lack of organisation, but provides so much fun as well. When someone else writes a post on DS, I don’t like to look at it before it’s complete. To me, discovering it finished is like a child finding a well wrapped present under the Christmas Tree. Whereas seeing the post as it is being built doesn’t bring the same sense of discovery and awe. The same goes with those challenge posts.
While I do acknowledge receipt when photographs are sent in, I do my best to forget all about them (and I’m really good at forgetting stuff) and rediscover them in one complete sequence on the day. Which explains the dread (of forgetting someone). If this is the case for you, you know the drill: (1) let me know (2) don’t hate me 😉 If it isn’t, you can torment me all the same!
This month’s challenge was to create square images. (Many thanks to Lad Sessions for suggesting the idea).
Because, as you can read in my ongoing course on composition, I consider frame format to be the single most important desicion you can make about composing! And we have largely been stuck with one of the least interesting formats possible due to purely technical and legacy reasons: the ubiquitous and non-committal 3:2.
You see, a long format has inherent dynamism and a fat (square-ish) format brings sedate, centric, serenity. And something in the middle has neither. It’s just plain boring and inefficient for storytelling and image strength.
Hence the detox challenge: send me your squares. And I think, after reading my subtle-as-usual take on formats, you can begin to imagine what the next challenge is going to be 😉
Now, it’s not that you can’t make a nice/powerful photograph in a 3:2 format. Decades of photojournalism prove the opposite, as do the thousands of excellent 3:2 photographs sent in by readers over the years.
It’s more that the format isn’t doing much to develop creativity in photographers, with its middle-of-the-road attitude to composition, I feel that good and great photographers that use it have become accomplished in spite of the format rather than being helped by it. Remember the tremendous X-Pan camera? remember the Hassy 6×6 and imitators? When the current photo market has finally perfected its well-deserved collapse, I’m pretty sure we’ll see cameras like those rise again from the ashes and it won’t be a second too early 😉
Hence the provocation: send me your squares!
So, what am I looking for? Essentially how you fill the frame in a square format. You can clearly see 3 levels of proficiency in this:
(1) Cropping an existing photograph
(2) Mentally, deliberately, viewing a square in a rectangular viewfinder
(3) Viewing the world naturally in squares, which takes decades of practise
At some point, decades ago, I wasn’t far from 3. Today, 2 is a more honest evaluation. And it’s not rare for me to see one of my 4:3 photographs in the square previews of the WordPress back-office and think to myself how much better it looks that way 😉 Oh well …
Readers have asked me whether near-squares are OK. Sure they are. Replacing one normative pain in the arse with another would be silly of my. I’m just interested in viewing compositions in centric frames.
Linhof, bless their cotton socks, dubbed the 56x72mm format the ideal format. And I’d have to agree, particularly in a vertical frame. So, who am I to deny anyone the search of ideal?
4:3, however lovely in its own right, is a step too far for this challenge though. As stately and yummy as it is, it has lost most of the feeling of inward centric pull that a real square produces.
With all that squarely out of the way, let us continue to your photographs.
Let me just thank you once again for taking the time to send those in and opening yourself up to (positive) critique by others, and for sharing ideas that are sure to inspire others.
I do lottsa squares. Hell, I am a square, Exept if you look at me, when you’ll see I am more Michelin Man. So I am sort of an unsquare square, and that is what I picked for this challenge. Un-square squares…
Michael adds: “The square format is not a native format to me, however it does seemto provide a strange in-build quality of freedom within its confines!So it truly is a challenge for me… ;-)In this set I have tried to provide a dynamic, almost challenging testingof an inherent “calm and conform format”.Some more than others…“
Pete adds: “I thought this one might amuse you – the rose window on Strasbourg cathedral. Bummer of a thing to straighten up – there’s no easy way to climb up there, nor – for a ground level shot – to straighten it up, so it’s circular and correctly aligned. Never mind – it was fun to do.”
images are part of a body of work concerned with the meaning of the past
for those living in the present. Over a period of five years
(2004-2008) I have photographed in many regions
of Asia, in cities and in the countryside, in the homes and fields of
peasants, in monasteries, in mountains and seashores. I have avoided
most aspects of modern lifeto
seek out the elements of the past that still have meaning and
usefulness today. I have portrayed the landscape, both unadulterated and
transformed by humans, buildings of ancient stones, places of worship, all integrated in the daily life of ordinary people. For
this project, I chose to use Polaroid Time Zero film and an SX-70
Polaroid camera. I embraced the imperfections of the flawed Polaroid
film, its muted, faded hues, its blemishes, its light
flares. They symbolize an alternative world view and I adopted it as
the voice I had been looking for to convey the sense of these vanishing
places. It also conveys the message that everything has flaws, nothing is perfect and that’s OK.
Here’s a few squares for your perusal. I like square and shoot often using the format so I have plenty, but how to find then? You can’t search by aspect ratio in LR but you can sort by aspect ratio but it’s a real fag. So having got fed up with it these are my offerings!
Sateen adds: “Fun challenge, thank you. I never shoot squares. And since you ask for provocative uses, I’m providing a uniform photograph with no composition at all. I’m interested in decay as a subject. Decay implies a loss of structure (and colour differentiation) and the absence of composition, in this square frame, is how I choose to represent it for those leaves. You did ask for it.”
I wanted to contribute to the blurred photo exercise on Dear Susan and lost track of time, but did manage to dig up some shots taken with my Mamiya 6 camera. The black and white photos with Fuji Acros 100 and the color ones with Fuji Provia. I don’t claim they are all special, but they are square by nature and composed as such, and it has been fun to dig through some of my film scans for compositions that worked out moderately well. I hope you enjoy some of them — if any strike you as interesting, please feel free to include them.
Here are my two images for the Square Challenge. Autumn is always my muse!
Ahem, shame on me. I forgot this great image in my selection, even through it was Lad who suggested the square challenge in the first place. Ahem indeed. So sorry 😉
You may have noticed I didn’t comment on the individual submissions as I usually do. It’s not out of interest, I assure you. But I don’t want to put a subjective spin on what should be perceived as an objective science. A composition either fits a frame or it doesn’t. And I can only say that most of the above do so very nicely 🙂 I have to salute frames inside frames, a circle inside a square, possibly the most centric compositional device you can imagine, and the saucy absolute lack of composition by some teasers. Two ladies, I might add 😉
As for next month, our final challenge of the year, well, you might have guessed it from the intro, why not play with the exact opposite of a square and go for very elongated frames ?
So bring out your panos, your stitches, your crops and stretch your creative muscles (see what I did there? 😉 😉 😉 )
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