Friday, June 24, 2016

Vanishing point

A rule of thumb I've generally followed in using a wide-angle lens is 'avoid perspective effects'. Use the properties of the lens to create a sense of depth in the image, but don't allow perspective to become the dominant feature.

Looking through my old contacts, I found one series of images from over two decades ago where I deliberately positioned the vanishing point at the centre of the frame. One of these images is included in my post Lure of simplicity. The last image in the set, it was made with a Pentax Spotmatic with 28mm lens on Abbeydale Road South, Sheffield, at Millhouses Park.

The photograph of the bus stop on this page was made on the same day. I'm guessing that I (inconsistently) allowed a bread van into the otherwise empty picture because I wanted to capture a dog that had wandered into the centre of the viewfinder.

I found myself moved by these strange evocations of of a lonely walk down empty Sheffield streets — and at the same time slightly irritated by the cheesiness of the idea. It was an experiment that I tried only once. When you've seen one perspective image you've seen 'em all. There's nothing subtle or hidden, nothing to interpret. The wide-angle lens does all the work.

Why not try again just once — for old times sake? This time the camera of choice was a mid-80's point-and-shoot Ricoh FF-3AF (a Leica Mini 3 for the last but one shot). My predominant feeling is no longer irritation. I can see now the dreamlike quality that (I think) I was aiming for. The fact that the compositional structure is the same in each case calls attention to the contrasting details of each image. There's a sense of mystery. Where does this lead? what's behind that door, or wall?

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