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The Use of Gestalt in Photography: Proxmity

Having fun with the effects of Proximity.

Having fun with the effects of Proximity.

One of the most diverse, interesting, and sometimes complicated of all the principles of Gestalt that I teach both in my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet is referred to as Proximity. If you’ve ever felt that your composition was a little off and you weren’t sure why, you might have been suffering from a Proximity flaw.

There are several ways Proximity can add or detract from our photography:

The proverbial tree, lamppost, building, or telephone pole that seems to grow out of your subject’s head is one of the not so good ways Proximity can affect our photographs. I’m sure you have either seen it in other images, or have been guilty of it yourself, but have you ever wondered why you didn’t notice it right before you pulled the trigger (that’s a Texas euphemism) for clicking the shutter?

When we taking pictures out in some location, we’re in a three-dimensional reality, so it’s easy to see the relationship between one object and another. The problem comes when you try to convey your image that was taken in a three-dimensional reality, and display it in a two-dimensional representation…as in a photograph. Since the photographer is physically present, he or she can tell that a tree or a pole or some object is in the distance and not growing out of someone’s head. That is if the photographer is paying attention. When a picture is taken that fact is lost; you’ve lost the third dimension, depth.The tree is now in a two-dimensional contact with the person and the viewer will interpret the two as being one since they’re both in focus and appear to be on the same plane.

This is a very good reason why you need to study every part of your frame before taking the picture. for those of you that have taken my workshop or class, I talk about my “Fifteen Point Protection Plan”. It’s the best way to see this effect and rectify it…how you ask?

By simply moving over a step.

There are times when you can use this flaw to your advantage, and have fun with it; as in the photo above taken by a student in my online Gestalt class, and the photo I created of the cop with the fan on his head.

An intentional use of Proximity.

An intentional use of Proximity.

The funniest example of which I don’t have a photo is when I saw a friend of mine’s five year old putting his thumb and index finger out in front of him aimed at his mother’s head and touching them together several times in rapid succession. I asked him what he was doing and he said that he was pinching his mother’s head. Try it sometime; it’s a great stress reliever, and it was Proximity in action!!!

Stay tune for more on the effects of Proximity.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to look for my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com and receive a video critique.




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