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"ANATOMY OF A COMPOSITON"

by Genghis


"MATCH POINT"



The photograph shown was reviewed by S. at our forum, STREET PHOTOGRAPHER:

"I love the way you set up this geometric study with the chess board in the foreground. I couldn't help noticing the visual analogy between the chessmen lined up on the board and the people milling around in the back. The first is a chess game beginning, the second is toward the end with the pieces all dispersed.

There is also a pleasant tension between circles and squares. The layers of interest are nifty, too. As you move toward the rear, there's even a backdrop and behind that a theatrical scrim. Wonderful!"


S. truly "feels" a photographic composition in that she is cognizant of how the elements of a picture interact, and how the amalgam of that flow of elements affects a viewer. In fact, her observations of my photography perhaps surpass what I originally intended for a composition. The unintended consequences of "Match Point" such as the tension between the circles and squares that S. cites, go beyond what was in my mind when I framed this image through the viewfinder and tripped the shutter. When I mentally visualize a composition before bringing the camera up to my eye, I'm looking at the bigger picture so to speak, and am not concentrating on miniscule variables like the circles and squares. It is particularly true in street photography where speed is of the essence, when a composition has to be quickly decided upon before the execution of the capture on film or digital sensor, so that the moment doesn't pass before the photo opportunity is lost. In this case, it had to be done expeditiously before one of the main elements moved out of view. In this case, that element were the chess players at the top of the composition.

Compositional methodology is a mysterious process. What I would like to do is to shed light on this creative process by outlining the sequence of my thinking as I was composing "Match Point", right up to the time of shutter activation. This picture was taken in Union Square Park in lower Manhattan. As I approached the area of the park where the chess tables reside, I noticed that at one end some players were milling about. I stood in front of a chess table where the chess pieces were in place before the beginning of a game.

Much of my composing is instinctive as to what I might consider an aesthetic arangement of elements in a photograph, given the raw material of the world before me at the moment. What was present was the entire chess playing area of the park. What struck me was, that a vertical composition with the chess table with the pieces in place at the bottom of the photographic image, and the players juxtaposed at the top of the image---would be interesting to view. In this, S. was correct and in alignment with my own thoughts regarding the analogy of the chess pieces, and the players at the far end. Composing the photograph to achieve this would require getting close to the table, and tilting the camera in a vertical position to fit the two key elements---the chesss table and the players at the far end---in their respective and polar opposite positions in the photographic frame.

Once the placement of key elements for "Match Point" were decided on, all that was left was the physical execution of capturing the desired image. I got about three feet away from the center of the chessboard, and framed the picture with the players at the end at the top of the picture, and made the exposure. My focus was already preset to three feet using the distance scale of the focusing ring my lens. Exposure was know to me as I constantly check exposure parameters as I walk the streets. I was careful to frame the table three feet away so as to fill the frame from left to right, with no gaps at the sides of the table. This was important to me. The result is as you see it in "Match Point." Later.
FINITO