Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Exercise 18 : Elements of Design : Diagonals

Diagonal lines can obviously be placed in any direction without being restricted by the need to be vertical or horizontal and can relate to the frame of the image in a different way as they can be at any angle.  Diagonals have more apparent energy and dynamism than verticals and horizontal as they create their own ‘unresolved tension’ (Freeman, 2007) through being perceived as unstable, and maybe even give the impression of ‘falling’.  Many lines found in photographs are vertical or horizontal, and this is never more apparent than in man-made situations such as architecture.  As Freeman (2007) points out, it is interesting that diagonals are often created in the camera by the angle of view of lines which are vertical or horizontal.

Diagonals play a key role in image perspective, as horizontal lines that run away from the eye converge to become apparent diagonals, and this has a fundamental effect on the perception of depth of field.  A further major feature of diagonals is their role in implying movement in an image as the line leads the eye and gives the photographer a powerful graphic device to draw the viewer through the image to where he wants it to focus.  Choice of lens also has an influence on the perception and impact of diagonals as wide angle lenses makes perspective diagonals far stronger, especially if the image is taken as a close up.

My first image in this series was drawn from my London set and shows the strong diagonals of the Millennium Bridge as it crosses the Thames to St Pauls. The striking hand rails of the three pathways are dark in colour and make very prominent diagonals in the image.

My second image shows the Olympic countdown clock in Trafalgar Square.  This is composed of powerful diagonal lines, some are parallel and some are in opposition to one another.  I think it creates a really dynamic image.

The next image is a wooden sculpture from a local arts centre which shows some parallel diagonals and is actually not unlike the sketch of this design element on page 76 of Freeman (2007).

Finally, my last image is of Ropley Station on the Watercress Line in Hampshire, a preserved steam railway.  The two platforms and tracks are clearly horizontal lines when stood on the station looking directly across the railway lines but the effect of the point of view chosen to take the picture gives the impression of a series of diagonal lines moving across the image.

This exercise surprised me in that it was far more difficult than I thought to just find pictures of diagonal lines.  It also caused me to give far greater consideration to the roles of point of view and perspective in creating diagonals to try in future images to draw the viewer through the image in the way that I would hope.
The course notes also ask that images from the recommended books should be reviewed for diagonals.  The images that particularly stuck me from Cotton (2011) were Roni Horn’s “You are the weather” (p47), Gabriel Orozco’s “Breath on a piano” (p117), Cindy Sherman’s “Untitled #48” (p193) and my favourite of all if Eileen Quinlan’s dramatic “Yellow Goya” (p235). 

Another book I have reading is Mary Warner Marien (2002), although it is not an OCA recommended text as such.  My picks from this book would be Paul Strand’s “Abstractions, Porch Shadows, Connecticut, 1917” (p201), Charles Sheeler’s “Industry 1932” (p253), Humphrey Spender’s “Midway Clowns, Blackpool, 1937” (p292) and arguably the most famous diagonal of all, Joe Rosenthal’s “Marines raising the American flag on Iwo Jima” (p305), however it was taken ..

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