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Beyond The Velvet Rope Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

16 May 2017

A few weeks ago we wrestled with an image of a sculpture that we had composed perfectly. We were standing in front of it just where the sculptor had expected us to stand. We had lined up the shot squarely and given it generous borders.

It was a very dramatic scene but it just fell flat as we looked at it on the monitor. The figures seemed two dimensional not three, frozen not tense.

We'd tell you more but we're not done with it yet. We went back and took a different approach that looks a lot more promising.

And that approach was simply to avoid standing behind the often invisible velvet rope. That velvet rope represents a viewing position of centuries past. Today we're much more involved in the scene.

And you can blame photography for that.

A wide angle lens begs you to step closer to the scene, the distortion adding a sense of movement both toward the viewer and away at the same time. Objects in the mirror, you know, are closer than they appear. Which is to say closer objects are further and distant objects look further than they are.

Drama, in short.

But the camera also moves your eye to the end of your arm, away from your face. And this gives you quite a different view of things than the person standing next to you sees.

It also gets you beyond the velvet rope.

And that's where we were for this shot in this gallery at the Legion of Honor. In fact, we were behind the sculpture of the boy.

We've taken this angle a few times, actually. There always seems to be a bust of an older person in the other corner of the room to play off the boy. You can have one or the other in focus. Not both.

We shot this at f5.6, 1/60 second and ISO 1000. Focal length was 28mm on the 14-42mm zoom. What you see here has been cropped and rotated.

But what do you see here?

A young man holding a book, apparently gazing across the room at the enshrined bust of an older woman. Themes of youth and age, education and experience, ambition and patronage are just a few of the things you might see.

The bust is Mary Queen of Scots in terracotta by Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse, circa 1860-1869. The boy gazing at her is The Young Columbus in marble by Giulio Monteverde, circa 1870. He is sitting on a pier piling looking out to sea, actually.

But all of that is meaningless in this photograph because we went beyond the velvet rope to compose a scene that invites us to dwell on the relationship between the things we can see: the book, the boy, the older woman out of focus in the distance.

From those elements we tell a story and in that story we find meaning.

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