Street Photography: More Shapes and Shadows

This photograph was taken at the same location and time as those I described in a previous post. Before, I was on 51st Street looking toward the Avenue of the Americas. Now I’m looking down along 51st. Just turning around results in a completely different image and, yet, its composition still maintains the same theme. It is, at once, a photograph steeped in realism and in abstraction.

There is an interplay between the negative space and the shapes that convey a sense of mass (or weight). When I studied painting, one of my teachers advised turning the canvas upside down. Doing so forces the artist to see the painting more for its shapes than for what those shapes represent. In this way, one can assess whether the composition still holds up without regard to the subject of the work. Much later I was delighted to read that Henri Cartier-Bresson – who also painted – would do the same trick to test a photograph’s composition.

With my photograph, it’s a little easier to consider the elements that form the composition because the scene of the midtown street and skyscraper is so stark.

Nevertheless, I was curious to see how strong the composition of this “abstract” is when the image is not only turned upside down, but rotated left and right (see below).

What do you think? Does the composition work?

Upside down

Rotated clockwise

Rotated counterclockwise

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Published by Xiomáro

Nationally exhibited artist, photographer, speaker, teacher, and curator. Author of "Weir Farm National Historic Site" (Arcadia Publishing).

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