Friday, June 15, 2007


Great comments yesterday on Exercises and the subject of reframing came up as it refers to psychology. I want to discuss what that means in terms of taking pictures.

Reframing in psychology refers to thinking about events from a different viewpoint. People who are anxious or depressed tend to look at things in the worst possible light. Your boss criticizes you and you jump to the conclusion you are at risk of being fired, that he doesn't like you as a person, that you are no good.

The reframing comes when you look at the situation and realize that maybe your boss didn't sleep well last night and his grumpiness has nothing to do with you. You had a good appraisal last month so his grump today isn't likely to threaten you. He didn't say you were a worthless person, he simply criticised one specific issue - say your spelling. That doesn't mean he doesn't like or respect you.

In photography reframing is not so much about looking at things more accurately. Rather it's almost the opposite - not taking things at face value. You may be looking at a toilet, but can you see it as a series of sensuous curves instead (Edward Weston did). A rectangular object actually appears in a print as a triangle because of perspective - do you see it as a rectangle or a triangle - if the former, then that interferes with your ability to compose. In real world seeing, shadows are ignored. In images they are as substantial as the object that casts them - perhaps even more depending on the tone of the object.

In real life two objects may have no relationship but in an image, they have similar tones and can be arranged next to each other so they do have a relationship - can you see that? This is photographic reframing.

This discussion started with whether it's useful to shoot a subject you would normally have no interest in and so far it looks like the majority feel they can but none of us has been able to prove it.

1 comment:

Howard Grill said...

Reminds me of Minor White's great quote that goes something along the lines of "Don't just photograph what something is, photograph what else it is". (That may not be worded exactly as he said it.....)

I know I would find and do find such exercises helpful as I think they make it easier to 'see'; easier to start finding images when you are out trying to photograph for 'real'.

I remember Brooks Jensen, in one of his articles, was talking about workshops and felt that one should not necessarily plan to come away with great images when on a workshop, but rather come away with an improved way of seeing or thinking about images that can be applied to one's photography when they return. I guess he would feel that even a workshop should be an exercise of sorts.