An Experiment with Composition

Early in March of last year, I started reading Larry Fink’s book On Composition and Improvisation, part of the aperture photography workshop series. There are some stunning black and white photographs chronicled in this volume presented with a mixture of the photographers insights, compositional techniques and other photographic processes. It's a book I refer to regularly.

On page 26  there is this photo of a boxer training before a fight


Copyright Larry Fink

Copyright Larry Fink

Below this photo he instructs:

Do a little experiment with this picture. Cover that little corner of the table in the bottom left with your hand so that it’s no longer in the picture and look at what happens. The picture flattens out. No longer do you see the boxer embattled inside the context of space. It doesn’t become a bad picture without the table but it becomes infinitely less good because there is less tension. The picture becomes more two-dimensional, rather than sculptural or volumetric.
Roebuck Plains, March, 2017.

Roebuck Plains, March, 2017.

At around this time I was on Roebuck plains towards the tail end of the wet season. My intention was to get some dramatic storm fronts cutting across the salted, treeless plains just outside of Broome. The earth is chalky white, spread with clusters of spear grass, rough spinifex and pale termite mounds. Even though it looks landlocked this area is within an eleven metre inter-tidal zone where you often see hermit crabs marching along deep 4x4 tracks.

Down the end of one of these dry and weathered track I came across a friend of mine and we spoke through the wound down window for a while. The horse took the initiative and came in to inspect and as it did I took some photos and framed it with the recent advice still fresh in my mind, using the wing mirror to give it the effect of adding depth to the composition.



Most of the photos I took used this effect. The mirror is brash and bright, unlike the delicate placement of the table corner in the boxer photograph but was useful to use a compositional technique days after reading about it.



You can buy On Composition and Improvisation here.