In this exercise, I experimented the natural tendency to orient the framing of a photograph according to the shape of the main subject: horizontal or vertical. Previously, my general habit was to adapt the orientation of the framing to the subject. For this exercise, I first looked at past photographs to check the fact that we instinctively position the main subject lower in the frame. These three examples demonstrate that this is verified in my case.
So, one morning, I went for a walk specifically thinking of this framing question. All photographs below can be viewed enlarged by clicking on them.
These two photographs show different contexts depending on the orientation of the frame: focused on the signpost or including more of the city in the background.
In this series of three photographs, I wanted to first show the other side of the river with the wooden pontoon. When changing the orientation of the framing (second photograph), I find the scene far less interesting. By lowering the viewpoint and exclusively focusing on the pontoon the focus switches to the foreground. I was careful to include enough reflection from the buildings on the opposite river bank.
The deep red figure attracted my attention in this third series. I have a general interest in trying to understand the meaning of graffiti and tags . So, after a first shoot in vertical, I stood back and looked at the surrounding, framing the second shot.
Another series on graffiti shows how the surrounding can become a main component of a frame.
Re-framing a scene may require coming closer to the subject. In the following series, after taking a horizontal shot, I wanted to focus on the two railway carts and the chimneys in the background. But the latter appeared too short, losing their dominating effect on the scene. To overcome this, I chose a telephoto lens and stood back.
In this other example, the choice was between giving more importance to the dwellings or to the dominating power plant.
These two photographs of the building of a massive tower for one of Basel’s large pharmaceutical companies tell a different story. The first one, taken in portrait format, emphasizes the height of the new construction. The second photograph shows how it integrates within the neighborhood: nice dwellings on the left hand side and a white industrial chimney as evidence of the nature of the company’s activity.
What this exercise taught me is that one has to be careful not to be too focused on the subject that first attracts one’s attention. The reading of a photograph depends on the photographer’s intention. Observing the broader context around the initial subject allows to deliver a different message. Horizontal or vertical framing is therefore a useful tool.