Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Contemplative Look at the Principles of Design - Contrast

Fire and Ice
The juxtaposition of different visual elements in order to highlight their differences.

 In a previous series I looked at the contemplative possibilities of the visual elements.  Today I will begin a series that will show how the principles of design can be viewed from a contemplative perspective rather than an artistic one.  There are plenty of design books that will innumerate the artistic application of these principles.  Here I want to see how they might apply to contemplative thought.

    If the visual elements can be considered the building blocks of art, then the design principles are the instructions on how one can variously arrange those blocks.  It is a deliberate attempt to order your image for effect.  A painter has full control of this process...a photographer must rely to some extent on what presents itself to them.  Camera angle and viewpoint will then accentuate the idea.

   The first principle I will discuss is contrast.  In photography, we often speak of contrast in terms of light and shadow but I want to approach it from a contextual viewpoint.  It is a crucial one for this contemplative photographer who is inspired by Taoist ideas.  The yin/yang paradigm is central to Taoist thought.  All things exist in pairs and in this photograph, one such pair is illustrated.

   It is not just an exercise to find these pairings in the landscape.  What the concept of contrast does for the contemplative photographer is to stimulate a dialogue.  By placing these two concepts side by side, each becomes amplified.  This will then lead to new ideas that might reconcile the opposition in some way.

   I think the primary benefit, contemplatively speaking, in photographing examples of contrast is that it enables me to muse on both their individual meanings and the third, taken together, they offer a different message.  In my Photo Lectio with this image,  I saw fire as passion and ice as detachment...there is a time for both and an excess of either can be heatwaves and ice storms!  I also mused that taken together, passion will eventually melt away detachment and that can be good thing if it draws people into an important cause or idea.

   Looking for ways to use the principle of contrast in your photographs is a good exercise in discrimination.  It trains the eye to look for ways the landscape offers us points and counterpoints.  Contrast, as the Taoist principle eludes to, is not a bad is the nature of the world because in it it creates the balance we all strive for and Nature always seeks balance.


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