Research: Art of Photography – Elements of Design.

Please find all research and reflection for this module.

Link to the exercises:


Lecture and Exhibition.

On 23rd November I travelled to London for the RPS Lecture ‘Photography in a Connected Age.’  I am awaiting my note takers notes to arrive and will feed back in due course.

I also had the opportunity , all too briefly, to take in Victor Burgin’s ‘Sense of Place’ Exhibition.  I am still recovering from the trip but will update my learning log accordingly in due course.



Rhythm and Pattern


  Repetition is a necessary ingredient to rhythm by doesn’t guarantee a sense of rhythm alone.   Sense of musical rhythm needs to also be apparent. Rhythm can be boring but can be used to give the eye time to travel across the frame to a point of interest. (Freeman,M.2007:49)


Gestalt law of continuation seems to plays a large part in the success of an image.

Examples of Rythm

– Gettleman, J. (2013). The Price of Precious. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (0), 51- 53.   Photographs by: Marcus Bleasdale

 In this National Geographic article Marcus Bleasdale has presented a very powerful set of images depicting the exploitation and hardship of gold miners in Democratic Republic of Congo.  On page 46 is a line of miners panning in a river and this composition of the line of men could almost be musical notes lifted from sheet music. The eye is taken from left to right scanning the scene but comes to rest on the front of the frame where the strongest detail of the work being undertaken is situated.


-George Steinmetz. (2013). Celebrate. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (1), 119. Photograph by: Simon Norfolk. Uxmal, Mexico.

This image is an architectural image of a Mayan ruin built in the Classic Period.  This image is where rhythm could be boring as Michael Freeman described (Freeman,M.2007:49) However, the law of continuation is punctuated by shafts of light that lifts the composition into a pleasing one.


 ….is associated with area and not direction as rhythm is.  The eye scans the entire image. The greater the number of ‘items’ present, the greater the sense of pattern. (Freeman,M.2007:49)


Examples of pattern.

 – Gettleman, J. (2013). The Price of Precious. National Geographic. 125th anniversary edition (0), 51 53.   Photographs by: Marcus Bleasdale

 On page 43 is another image from the Congo mining series.  Here a sodden and precarious bank of clay mud is broken up by intermittent workingmen woven together by lines of ‘pathways’.  The eye is taken in different direction by means of these paths from left to right. The implied lines takes our eyes from top to bottom and diagonally each way.

 – Byrne, D.  Images of Far East – Parasols. Available: Last accessed 20th November 2013. 

 Photographer: Dominic Byrne ARPS (Finalist Landscape Photographer of the year 2013)

 This image of Parasols is a classic example of how pleasing pattern can be in terms of colour and texture.  The pattern of the parasols fills the frame with the ribs fanning out leading the eye in different directions.

Reflecting on assignment 2. What makes me tick?

As I come to considering my assignment submission, I have had to consider what makes me tick as a photographer.  I have enjoyed many challenging aspects of ‘Elements of Design’.  But, you see, my problem is that if I don’t feel any connection or passion then I can’t shoot for toffee….So, deciding on how to tackle the assignment was tricky.

 The options we were given for the assignment are ideal to demonstrate understanding of ‘elements of design’ and I am sure there are many students who will be able to dice up food stuffs or find flowers and produce wonderful work in an afternoon.  However, I know that if I spent the next decade on that theme, I would not produce anything pleasing.  I think my still life learning log ‘points’ exercise demonstrates perfectly well that still life is not ever going to be something I respond particularly well to, let alone want to submit and assignment for at this time.  I enjoy looking at such work and I have been playing for the last few weeks with different ideas but I think that, at this time, I am ‘flogging a dead donkey’.

 My enabler is currently unavailable, so landscapes are out of the question.

 I have therefore decided to give street detail a go.  I had taken ‘street detail’ to mean street furniture.  I went out around our local city centre and just couldn’t get a ‘feel’ for lampposts or the like without a human element.  I can take technically sound architectural images but not particularly creatively. I noted that one of my tutor’s comments was to show creativity and.  I kind of gave up on my first assignment outing and set about shooting for personal merriment but keeping design elements in mind.  When I came home I realised that I had a thread/ theme running through some images. Literal and metaphorical but they fell short of the instruction to make the items similar.  The theme that had emerged was triggered by a military parade in town that day.

 It took a good few days and turmoil to realise that what I was doing was shooting a sad story of some of my veterans I came across in my career during the mid 1990’s. I found this was something I needed to reflect on as my personal voice develops. I think that has been telling that much of my further research has centred around documentary photography.

 Still, I couldn’t get around the fact that a bottle of alcohol was not similar to a war memorial.

 I sent some images to my tutor but to be fair I was unable, at that point, to articulate what my problem was. I didn’t hear back so I took it that I just needed to sort myself out!! In the end I looked at some other blogs to see how other people had interpreted the assignment brief.

 I came to the conclusion that very few street detail assignment submissions had ‘similarity’ beyond that of the fact the image was in a street.  The tutor feedback was still positive so I have decided to run with street detail along with an overlapping theme.

 In deciding this I have probably made life much harder for myself.  My soul will be in this assignment images and that will make taking feedback even harder.  However, if I am to maximise the time on this undergraduate journey then I have to be true to myself.  It would be pointless applying new knowledge to themes that I am simply not interested in.  




I guess this will be a baby step into metaphor/conceptual/ story telling.  I have to start somewhere with it and I am hoping for a favourable response.


The desired learning outcomes are still demonstrated in each image and each image will also still work standalone.  Some images will be stronger then others but, then, that will be the case for a lot longer yet.


I read the course notes and Michael Freeman’s ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ with interest as I had already independently observed, long before the course, how many times triangles occur in photography composition either as the binding composition element or by a geometrical dissection of a frame.  A quick dip into ‘The Expert Photographer’ confirmed my sentiments with a quote Michael Freeman uses….


“It’s not really a case of why you should be using triangles in your composition, because you’ll come to realize that the inclusion of triangles is inevitable, it’s more about why you should be using them properly.” (Author unknown) 

Here is one of my own images (a self rejected assignment image) where the subjects themselves are not in a triangular formation but the space in between the subjects give a loosely formed sense of implied triangle.  I have sketched in the triangles I can find that help to bind the image together along with other design elements such as curves and eye lines.

Insert image.

As throughout ‘AoP – Elements of design’ I am taking the opportunity to explore works of other ‘greats’….

Jean Gaumy

I have consulted my new Thames and Hudson published ‘Mugnum – book of photography.’ An image by Jean   that is entitled ‘Grand Riviere, Martinique, 1979’ gave a lovely example of fishing boats on the shoreline converging to an implied triangle.  In what would otherwise be a chaotic scene to capture the composition draws the eye through the image. AGAIN, and it seems a common theme with me, this is also a geometrically balanced image. What I can also notice now is the Gestalt rules holding true.  I can identify the ‘law of similarity’ in all of the boats, the ‘law of closure’ in the triangular composition and the ‘law of continuation’ in the implied lines in other boats.  There may be more ‘laws’ but I am yet to settle into these Gestalt principles fully.

In my desperate attempt to pull myself away from geometrically pleasing images I went on a hunt through the same book and found….

Cornell Capa

 ‘A Hebrew Lesson.’ It is a beautifully composed and simple image of three young children studying at a desk that provides the base of the implied triangle and the teacher leaning over providing the apex.  There is a sense of perspective provided by the diagonal base to the image.

‘Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe’.  This is a close and intimate portrait of the pair. The base of the implied triangle is the arm. The turned in faces and an implied eye line provide the other two sides of the triangle.


Marc Riboud

Image found: Williams, V (2012). What Makes Great Photography 80 Masterpieces Explained. London: Quintessence Editions Ltd.. 183


An image I have stumbled across that initially perplexed me because, on the face of it, it appears to be a mere snap gave me food for thought. The image works but it was hard to tell why it does on the  first casual glance.   The image is kept in the Irish Museum of Art and therefore must be held in esteem. Entitled ‘County Down, Ireland, 1978’, this image is about many things but here I am looking at triangles.  The somewhat awkwardly positioned group of hunters is in fact grouped in implied lines of triangles.  The book I found this image in makes no mention of this though.  Although this isn’t where I found the image, you can see the image on this link.  It is the first image on the third row down.

Implied Lines.

Implied lines


Simply put, it is a line that isn’t actually there but the imagination is triggered into ‘seeing’ a line or  a natural continuation of a line. This can help compositionally to give a sense of movement and flow.

 “Implied lines are lines that are not necessarily drawn in an image, but are lines created by values, colors(sic), textures or shapes that guide the eye though(sic) the piece of artwork.” 


(The above definition found on – accessed 05/11/2o13)



Micha Bar Am – Magnum

I have, again, looked through some Magnum images. One compelling image is within a collection of The Yom Kippur War in North Sinai. (Soldiers on the way to Budapest stronghold)
We can see that an implied line runs from the eye line of the soldier in the foreground that then draws our eye to back ground soldier on camera right. The forward pointing weapons created more implied lines that take our eye left across the direction of troops in the background. – accessed 05/11/2013.

Chris Steele – Magnum.

Moving over to my Magnum book I found more people images where implied lines work differently. On page 502, an image by Chris Steele – Perkins shows a scene of displaced families in a settlement in Angola. Here an implied line follows, in full circle, the heads and tree line through the fore, middle and background. This also demonstrates Gestalt laws of proximity, closure and similarity. (Phew, I think the penny has dropped on Gestalt!)

Ref: MAGNUM (2012). MAGNUM. 4th ed. London: Thames&Hudson. 502.

Henry Grant – London Street Photography

On page 63 of London Street Photographer, an image by Henry Grant, shows a chaotic image of a lady feeding pigeons’ on Trafalgar Square. I picked this image because the chaotic nature makes identifying the implied lines harder to analyse. In this very different image to the Chris Steele image above, the same laws of Gestalt apply as do the implied lines. The pigeons’ that have broken away into flight form implied lines that encircle and frame the central figure. There are other pigeons that don’t form the implied circular line but other implied lines form from feathers and lines of sight are also present that point into the central figure

Ref: (Seaborne, M & Sparham, A (2012). London Street Photography. 2nd ed. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing/ Museum of London. 63.)


1. MAGNUM (2012). MAGNUM. 4th ed. London: Thames&Hudson. 502.

2.(Seaborne, M & Sparham, A (2012). London Street Photography. 2nd ed. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing/ Museum of London. 63.)


1. – accessed 05/11/2013.