Lauren Welles : A “Metzkeresque” photo (look up Ray Metzker, if unfamiliar with his work). Perfect lines, shadows, light and triangles – Fundamental elements of good composition. While I often see work like this in Street Photography, I think that verticals are much harder to get right and this one does it perfectly, making use of evey inch of the frame.
This photo dates from 2016 and was selected by Lauren Welles, a New York street photographer for a small contest. It was printed in a photobook : World Street Photography 4. I like this photo a lot, but not just for aesthetic reasons. I love it because I happened to walk past this scene. I parked a little further and I was heading on foot to another place that I had spotted. So I passed under this bridge on foot whereas I am usually on the road by car and the perspective is totally different. This place has also changed enormously since the pharaonic works that saw the roads remodeled to accommodate Aixpress, buses with dedicated 100% electric tracks. This photo is anchored in its time and we will never be able to redo this photo.
This photo serves as an intro for the subject I wanted to discuss for a while. The importance of triangles in photography and especially here in Street Photography. In this case, the triangles are obvious and visible as geometric structures. As I might have said, I’m not a huge fan of architectural photos, but I don’t disdain sometimes taking the time to compose with urban elements to do different things. This was the case for this photo below.
I had passed by this site and I liked to see these rough concrete blocks coming out of the ground. I stayed to observe the ballet of the crane which came to bring fresh concrete to pour the walls. I took the time to compose quite precisely, which I do quite rarely and I am quite happy with the result. I always have triangles in mind when I compose. Triangles make everything dynamic. This is still the case here with the tilted verticals and the many triangles that appear when you take the time to study the composition. I can confirm that all the elements are placed where I wanted them.
Very often, triangles are suggested and do not appear directly as in the previous example. We find these famous triangles with the anchor points of the composition. It could be people or just elements that I wanted to integrate into the frame. Very often in my case, it will be people. I still find it difficult to do it differently. These are some recent examples where I have worked with individuals or groups of people.
These compositions are quite simple but they work because the eye is attracted by the summits of the invisible triangle that I have put in red. Which leads us to have a dynamic reading of the photo. In any case, I work like that.
Lately I told John Harper, that I tried more and more to integrate cars, motorcycles or any other elements in my compositions. I am attracted to people and tend to focus only on them. But I tend to widen my field of view a bit when shooting to incorporate more context into my photos. Whether it’s traffic or buildings. It’s pretty funny because very early on, I started doing close-up when it’s one of the most intimidating things in Street Photography. People start with more general scenes taken from a distance and gradually move closer to be closer to people. I do the opposite! I am no longer attracted to close-ups. I want more complex scenes by integrating as many things as possible into my composition. In the photo below, there is also a suggested triangle in my composition: This red and white car coming out of the frame, the boy and the two ladies in the distance.
On this last example, I integrated these two static elements in the foreground into my composition. When I look at this photo, my eye is doing ping-pong between the different elements of the imaginary triangles that I drew for you in red. Subconsciously when I compose a photo, I am looking for elements that allow me to create these triangles. 3 is a magic number in photography. In fact it takes odd numbers, but I find it very complicated to work above 3 elements in a composition. Here in this case we have 5 elements in the composition but it is a static scene, quite far from the mess of the street.
It is true that it is quite difficult to think of everything in the street. Everything is going fast, there are a lot of unforeseen events and clutters elements. Sometimes succeeding in having a clean scene with just two elements is a challenge, but little by little you learn to spot the scenes with potential and personally I always try to make my life easier by trying to integrate static people in my compositions. I also use triangles a lot to sort my photos. To determine the potential of certain photos. Sometimes these famous invisible triangles appear during editing. This is what will make one photo more interesting than another.
All the photos were made with the Ricoh GRD4 except the opening one (Fuji XE2|18 mmf2)