Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The 86 Aspects of Composition: Breath

Drawing from Mike Vargas' 86 Aspects of Composition, I'm looking at one aspect a week as it is reflected in the creations of Second Life Photographers and Artists. This week the topic is Breath, and the question is:
"Where is the alternation between tension and release, inhalation and exhalation?"

This one was a puzzler. Static art isn't like dance of music, where the breath is an integral part of creation, and although one breaths while one photographs, in Second Life that breath is one more step behind as one isn't even supporting the weight of a camera when creating images. Vargas' question about tension and release was an interesting one to me - how can both be portrayed in static art? What form could they take, both compositionally and emotionally? With that in mind, I looked through
my galleries of gathered images looking for images which seemed to combine both elements into one - a sort of tension and a source of release. There seemed to be two places where these alternative features could exist within a static frame - between a central figure and a (usually placid) backdrop, and between two competing figures with different reactions.

Arcana by Aktar Oakesvale

Above and below are examples of the former - placid backdrops with a figure full of tension presumably about to act in the foreground. Both figures seem to be caught mid motion, reacting to an external stimuli above, and internal below. The gaze going out of frame to the viewer brings some of the tension above, the pose deceptively relaxed given the central framing and grinning visage of the subject. The placement of an orb behind but off to one side is a nod to the use of imbalance to make things feel slightly 'off' and ramp up the tension within the image itself. The framing behind the orb is resolutely horizontal and relaxed, however; stone can be a relentlessly immobile and immovable, and the presence of firefly-like lights hints at the sort of peaceful nights one might know in the country, very much at odds with the character posing in front of them.

[I aim to misbehave]
[I aim to misbehave] by Abigale Heron

Heron also uses a primarily horizontal background to contrast with the strong vertical of her subject. The backdrop look peaceful, calm, distant and unaware of the person looming over it. Like in Oakesvale image, the figure is caught in a moment of action - arms rising up before her face. Unlike in Oakesvale image, her back is to us - this is not a tension of a character with a viewer but the tension of a character with a location, a city fecund and only slowly awaking with the dawn. I've grown fond of backs as I've taken more pictures - there's something about not being able to see someone's face, about the mystery of a hidden expression, that draws me into an image. In fact, with one other exception, most of the rest of the images in this post have concealed or partially obscured faces and difficult to read expressions - but I also began to identify images where there is an inhalation and exhalation within the drama of the image.

The Trace_034
The Trace_034 by Imminent Duplex

For example, Duplex captures an interesting duet at the Trace between two different horses with two very different experiences right next to each other. One is sinking into the ground - not apparently struggling, but if it was that sunk in the horse would be without the energy to fight any longer. Behind him, oblivious to him, a horse stands relaxed, hunting for something to munch on. The entire framing is calm, very horizontal, with the horses in the distance, so it's easy to miss the quiet drama playing out, unnoticed by all around. I think it would be a fundamentally different image were we closer to the horses, were their contrast more apparent and centered. What drew my attention was the failing horse and memories of another horse with very much the same posture - Artex from The NeverEnding Story. His death was an early punctuation to the story, an indication of the losses Atreyu, and by extension the reader, will have to endure (and which is far more significant in the book than it is in the movie). That scene is suffused with the breathing of both characters, and when I saw that same posture in the distance I was reminded of one of the early losses of my childhood and that heavy, ponderous, depressed breathing.

Trying to escape small circles…
Trying to escape small circles… by Lyndzay Meili

A similar breath inspired my inclusion of another of Meili's images - the tension of the running, the explosion and release of the flames, the sure knowledge that the figure must be breathing heavily as she leaps from chair to chair to escape what is behind her. Unlike the indifferent to each other pair in Duplex's image, the woman and the fire are dramatically engaged with each other. Like the first two images, this is very obviously a moment in time, a sense of motion captured in the stillness inherent to any form of static art. In this stillness, the little bursts of flame and the chairs themselves can be seen as the inhalations to the spaces in between's exhalations; the light falling on the back wall has a similar tempo but sped up and uneven. The fire itself has the ragged edge of a gasps and feeds off of oxygen as surely as we humans do - everything about this picture, it's spacing, it's tempo, the flow of movement from right to left, speaks to the frantic nature of hopeless escape.

Follow Love
Follow Love by Pixie Ruby

After Meili's image, Ruby's is a particularly funny contrast - but also shows an example of tension and release in the bodies of the two main figures. The woman on the left is caught in tension, reaching out for the man on the right with both arms but held back by her own buoyancy - a striking sort of tension and expression of a particular emotional moment, when one desperately wants something calmly moving out of one's grasp. In contrast to the tension on the left, the man on the right is entirely relaxed, walking away with a jaunty posture - an image of release if I've ever seen one. The painted heart in the background just underlines her plight - love leading her forward after the beloved who is cheerfully oblivious to her struggle. In Phantomhive's image below, a similar dynamic is expressed only more powerfully - with the man in the foreground near death while the Shinegami above him contemplates his fate. The tension of this moment, right before she makes her decision, is expanded upon in the text under the image and I really encourage you to check it out! In addition to this being a beautifully composed image, it's a lovely example of the breath of life and the cost it can have.

Butterfly's Black Love 2
Butterfly's Black Love 2 by Aarya Phantomhive

No comments:

Post a Comment