Preparation for Assignment Two: Elements of Design the shortlist

When I started Part 2 I had in mind the theme of abstract architecture as a basis for my assignment, However when I went out and about and started shooting pictures, I felt the images were too bland and would not be interesting enough as a set. As nice as the abstract verticals and diagonals were , I felt the images were too repetitive and only seemed to convey the idea of pattern.

I like documentary and street photography and my favourite pastime is snapping candid shots of people rushing about in their every day norm. So - not completely abandoning the idea of architecture I decided to incorporate more people and street scenes to add interest to this theme.

I have lost count of all the images I shot for this assignment. Over a period of 4 months I’m guessing approximately 500+. Some of the images were intended, for example on 1 day I may have set out in search of diagonals or triangles and others I shot because I liked what I saw in the viewfinder as I was passing!

I have shortlisted my favourite images within the given categories and they are shown below.

1. Single point dominating the composition

2. Two Points

3. Several points in a deliberate shape

4. A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

5. Diagonals

6. Curves

7. Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

8. At least two types of implied triangle

9. Rhythm

10. Pattern

David Lynch – The Factory Photographs

I had seen this Exhibition advertised at The Photographer’s Gallery and thought it worth a visit as the subject and style appeared to lend relevance to Part 2, Elements of Design.

On a quick visit to London in March, I made the time to pop in and view the Exhibition along with 2 others:

Taking Shots: the Photography of William S. Burroughs

Andy Warhol: Photographs 1976 -1987

I hadn’t connected the name David Lynch with the film director (Dune, Erasorhead and The Elephant Man) until I got to the exhibition and started reading the notes. Lynch took the images between 1980 and 2000 in various locations, including  Germany, Poland, New York and England whilst researching film locations. The 90 black and white images are of derelict industrial structures. The images include scenes of the interiors and exteriors of long abandoned factories and warehouses. The dark and brooding images were accompanied by an eerie and haunting sound track written by Lynch and this seemed to make the uninhabited shells now being taken over by nature, come alive once more giving the viewer a glimpse of a bygone era.

My favourite shots were of the window series – all taken from inside looking out through windows. Some were broken and cracked with peeling paint and wires, others were opaque, rain spattered or frosted glass hinting at the shadows of plant life beyond  reclaiming their space.

By shooting in black and white Lynch made use of patterns created by light and dark contrasts. He fills the frame with abstract silhouettes taken from low down and looking up or from high up and looking down or at different angles all of which help create drama and tension within the shots.

Compositionally, I was able to identify lines, diagonals, triangles, shape, rhythm and pattern in all of the pictures which helped inspire me for my work on Assignment 2.

As mentioned above, the work of William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol was also on show.  I wondered what the link was between these  groups of work and realised that photography is not usually what these 3 people are recognised for. Lynch is a film director, Burroughs an author and Warhol famous for his screen printing. However, all have produced some quite outstanding bodies of work within the photography medium. The images of William S. Burroughs are so different from the work of other photographers and indeed in genres. I was fascinated by his “Cut-ups” and collages where he uses cut out photographs displayed in a frame to make a collage. He assembles family and friends and juxtaposes them with magazine articles and text. This is an idea that I would like to explore for a possible future project.

Viewing Warhol’s work – I was interested to find that most of his famous artwork stemmed from a photograph. Apparently he took his camera everywhere and was obsessive about recording the everyday norm at that point in time. He shot people and crowds, street scenes, buildings, signage interiors and events. Warhol referred these images to his “Visual Diary”. When I think of Warhol, I see repetitive screen prints of a soup can or icon and it was interesting to see how he used this idea of repeated imagery within photography in a series called “Stitched”. He used identical images that were literally stitched together with a sewing machine to form a grid. Although this is a process I wouldn’t want to explore, the impact was stunning and has given me some ideas to present future work using pattern and repetition.


Exercise: Rhythms and patterns


Produce 2 photographs , one to convey rhythm and the other pattern.


Lyme Regis, Dorset


Canon 450D, Tamron 18 – 270 mm lens


I always assumed that rhythm and pattern were much of the same thing but looking at the images in the course notes and other examples there is actually quite a difference.

Rhythm involves movement or a sequence that draws the eye across the frame and pattern is something that is static but covers a large area.

1. Rhythm


I felt that these beach huts lent, as the course notes say “an optical beat” to the image. The way the huts are staggered encourages the eye to move up and down the diagonal roofs and across the frame.

2. Pattern


These were floats used as pathways in between the boats in the harbour.  I wasn’t able to stand  on them to take a shot from above so instead got down to ground level and filled the frame so the viewer can imagine them extending beyond the edges of the image.


Exercise: Real and Implied Triangles


  • To produce two sets of triangular compositions in photographs.
  • 3 photos should show real triangles
  • 3 photos should show implied triangles


Real Triangles

1. Find a subject which is itself triangular (it can be a detail of something larger).

IMG_3441     IMG_3441 copy

This boat was parked up on the shingle of Lyme Regis Beach the bow was pointing upwards, so I cropped in close to capture the triangular shape within the frame.

2. Make a triangle by perspective, converging towards the top of the frame.

IMG_3669_edited-1     IMG_3669_edited-1 copy

This is a street scene from a trip to Frankfurt, Germany. The pathway and lines of trees either side provide a natural linear perspective  with the lines converging into a vanishing point in the distance. In this case the apex is pointing upwards and the base level at the bottom.

3. Make an inverted triangle, also by perspective, converging towards the bottom of the frame.

IMG_9760     IMG_9760 copy

As implied by the course notes, this inverted triangle was certainly trickier to find! The image is of the interior of the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford which was formerly a prison with the cells being converted into rooms. Despite the bars, the glass roof and large windows are really quite stunning providing naturally converging lines to the bottom of the frame. Because the apex in this picture is pointing downwards it makes the triangular structure appear less stable than the picture above.

Implied Triangles

1. Make a still-life arrangement of five or six objects to produce a triangle with the apex at the top.

IMG_5454     IMG_5454a


2. Make a still life as above with the triangle inverted so that the apex is at the bottom.

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3. Arrange 3 people in a group picture in such a way that either their faces or lines of their bodies make a triangle.

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I am now clearer on the difference between real and implied triangles. Real triangles can be of a subject that is triangular or made up of converging lines and they have 3 very distinct lines within the frame. Implied triangles are made up of points or objects which encourage the eye to imagine lines between them in order to construct a triangular shape. Using these triangular shapes within a composition helps the brain to arrange the objects and bring order to the image. This is particularly useful if there are lots of other distracting events in view.

although I was familiar with the use of converging lines to provide triangular shapes, I hadn’t really given much thought to composing my pictures with a triangular structure until doing this exercise. I’ve always been told to plant things in groups of 3 or 5 when gardening and now I know why – to make a triangle, because shape is a fundamental part of design! Shapes such as triangles are used to enclose groups of things in order that they sit with other groups in harmony. This has probably been the most useful exercise in part 2.

Research for Assignment 2 – Josef Koudelka

All of Josef Koudelka’s images used in this post are copyrighted to Josef Koudelka & Magnum Photos and are only being used for educational purposes.

Following on from my earlier post about Josef Koudelka, I want to write more about his work in general and how it has helped me develop my work for Assignment 2.

Rather than write a biography about Koudelka (which anybody can google), I am just going to concentrate on my own personal thoughts about specific images in various bodies of Koudelka’s work but predominantly from his books: Gypsies and Exiles.

Koudelka, J (1988) Exiles, London, Thames & Hudson

Koudelka, J (2011) Gypsies, 2nd Edition, London, Thames & Hudson

From what I have read about Koudelka - he is a man of very few words. In an article from American Suburb X “Modern Sublime: The world of Josef Koudelka at the Recontres d’Arles” (2003) See link below. Robert Delpire quoted Koudelka’s words:

“I try to be a photographer. I cannot talk. I am not interested in talking. If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images.”

This is a very strong statement but the more I looked at Koudelka’s images the more I realised that not only is he a “Compositional Master” (quoted by my Tutor!) he has the gift of story telling through the medium of photography. In fact, in his book Exiles, Czeslaw Milosz who wrote the foreword of the book, opened his essay with the following statement:

“While writing this essay I had before my eyes Josef Koudelka’s photographs. Let my words serve as a tribute to his art of telling stories without words.”

I really identified with this statement and it reinforced what I personally aspire to when taking photos – “Make every picture tell a story”. All of Koudelka’s black and white images are strong and packed with such visual energy that you cannot help being drawn into the picture and imagine the scene playing out before your eyes. It’s rather like watching a mesmerizing silent movie with no captions on the screen!

I found many of his images quite haunting, they have the ability to affect the viewer in such a way that you can almost physically feel the emotions of his subjects reaching out to you – loneliness, bitterness, anguish, fear, pain, joy, love …… and so on. An Exile himself, it seems Koudelka often reflects  his own personal feelings and experiences into his images. An example of this reflection is the image below, used in my previous post. You can feel his quiet lonely, brooding acceptance of life.

PAR65574  France 1976.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

Koudelka obviously has great empathy with his subjects, immersing himself into the lives of the people he photographs. Many of the subjects appear proud to be photographed by Koudelka and the fact that they stare directly into the camera and stand with strong postures show just how at ease they are with Koudelka and his camera. See example below.

PAR65667[1] CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Zehra. 1967. Gypsies.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

As mentioned above, Koudelka is a “Compositional Master” as well as a maverick at storytelling. As I worked through the criteria for Assignment 2, I looked at many of Koudelkas images and compared them to what I was being asked to do.

The first thing I noticed about Koudelka’s work is the fantastic way he uses natural light to create very strong black and white contrasts in the form of shadows. The use of these shadows in his compositions provide all sorts of implied lines, shapes and points adding depth, tension pattern and movement to his images. An example of this is shown below.

PAR65562     PAR65562 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

There are various things going on in this picture. firstly the old man is looking at something out of view but his gaze provides a diagonal line to the point on the opposite wall which runs diagonally in the same direction as the shadow lines on the wall. These lines immediately draw the eye across the picture from right to left . Even the shadow of the mans head appears to be flattened and diagonally pointing in the same direction with his elongated nose leading the way. The little girl also provides a very strong implied eye line towards the old woman, mirroring the diagonal shadow lines on the opposite wall. Because the movement of these diagonals are in opposite directions across the frame they create a lot of dynamic tension with in the image, creating a very strong visual impact. Finally I like the way the image has been balanced by including the hook on the left hand side.

As well as using shadows to create contrasting lines, Koudelka often uses black and white contrasts to balance his images as seen below. He has cleverly used the sunlight and shadows to make a pattern of light and dark within the frame. The shadows on the left contrast nicely with the sunlight on the table. The eye is immediately drawn to the four plates on the table before moving right across the frame to the doors in the middle highlighted by the sun and over to the far corner where the back of the chair in the shadows picks up some of the light. The subject is very plain and simple but with clever composition and good use of light Koudelka has created a very striking picture.

PAR65598     PAR65598 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

Koudelka favours triangular composition and many of his pictures have three points or subjects providing a triangle shape within the image. As well as the 3 gypsy boys in his photograph above, I have included a couple more images which highlight these triangular shapes below:

PAR65774     PAR65774 copy

CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Rakusy.1966.Gypsy.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


PAR65725     PAR65725 copy

CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Zehra. 1967. Gypsies.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


PAR65943     PAR65943 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


The easy relationship Koudelka has with his subjects naturally provides a sense of ‘human’ rhythm and combined with his clever composition, the end product invites the viewer into the scene to experience the life-like sequences being played out. His images make me very curious and I cant help but wonder what scenery / activity is going on outside the frame edges and for me that is what makes Koudelka’s images come alive.

Along with Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka is a practitioner that I will definitely return to as a source of inspiration. I have learnt a lot from his composition and realise that I may need to be braver and make more of an effort to strike a relationship with the people I want to use in any documentary projects.

The following photographs are some that I have taken over the past few months whilst shooting for Assignment 2 and which I have been influenced by the work of Koudelka.

1. Shoes


I was walking around Oxford and just happened to look up and spotted this pair of shoes – it immediately reminded me of Koudelka’s picture below.

PAR65580 IRELAND. 1978.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

2. Repetitive Shadows


I was attracted by the repetitive shadows cast on this wall and remembered how Koudelka used the diagonal lines of the street to create a sense of movement  in the photo below. I waited for a person to walk along the road and pressed the shutter so that the person contrasted nicely against the sunlight wall. I composed the image to suggest the man is walking down hill.

PAR65521 SPAIN. Grenada. 1971

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos

3. Triangular Composition

In the following picture I made use of 3 separate points to create a triangle.


4. The use of natural light

The last two pictures I purposely made use of the sunlight to capture shadows which would add interest, balance, contrast and implied lines to my pictures.

IMG_3634     IMG_4812


Koudelka, J (1988) Exiles, London, Thames & Hudson

Koudelka, J (2011) Gypsies, 2nd Edition, London, Thames & Hudson










Exercise: Implied Lines


The first part of this exercise required us to look at the following two photographs and indicate the implied lines by sketching Arrows.

1. Michael Freeman


Implied1     Implied1 copy

2. Gotthard Schuh, Threshing Corn in Sicily

Implied2     Implied2 copy

In the bull fighting picture I felt the implied lines seemed to be circling around the bull and matador in one direction. In comparison the implied lines in Threshing the Corn originate from 2 different directions, 1 from the horses circling from the left and 2 from the farmer on the right. The implied line extends from the angle of the farmers leg along the contrasting contour of the land towards the horses. There is also an implied eye-line from the farmer towards the horses , mirrored by his outstretched hand holding the reins. In both images the lines imply movement.

For the second part of the exercise we had to find 3 photographs of our own and  perform the same analysis as part 1 – finding implied lines and indicating them with a sketched diagram.

1. Gloucester Green Market, Oxford

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7 copy1

This first picture is a shot from the Sequence of Composition exercise in Part 1. I particularly like the strong implied eye-lines from the actor and crew towards the camera man on the right whose face is just on the edge of the frame. There is also an implied eye-line from the camera man through the camera, along the lens towards the actor.

2. Swindon Town FC

240     240 copy

This picture was taken several years ago at Swindon Town Football Club where my son played a football tournament. The coach on the right was cross with his son and was telling him off as the boy stepped away from the group. There is definitely a stern looking eye-line from the corner of his eye directed towards his son!

There are also two implied lines from the coach and my son on the left. they are both mirroring each other by drinking from their bottles which are pointed in the same direction. They are also both watching the interaction between the first coach and his son.

3. Paris

IMG_1301     IMG_1301 copy

This picture was a bit of touristy fun but is a great example of a staged image! The arm of my friend makes a line implying that  she has her hand on the top of The Louvre in Paris.

4. Lyme Regis, Dorset

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Finally this picture shows how the downward eye-lines of the people descending The Cobb strengthens the diagonal lines of the steps. Because the movement is directed downwards and out of the frame, the eye automatically goes back to the top of the picture to see more. This eye movement backwards and forwards  creates tension and activity within the image.


Exercise: Curves


  • Look for and take 4 photographs using curves to emphasise movement and direction.


Canon 450D, Tamron 18 – 270 mm lens


Lyme Regis, Dorset


1. Sand


I took this shot a few days after the storms in February and there were several diggers cleaning up the debris from the beach. The tyre marks on the sand are a great example of concentric curves. Each curve reinforces the other and gives a great sense of movement.

2. Buoys

IMG_3389     IMG_3389a_edited-2

I found it harder to capture the curves of these buoys even though they are round. As a rule curves do not have a relation to the horizontal and vertical edges of the frame as they give the impression of a flowing and continual change in direction. However, I initially took this shot with the intention of demonstrating a diagonal line. The buoys lined up diagonally across the frame so I thought this would be a good example of a situation where curves do interact with straight lines. The roundness of  the buoys and the angle from which they are captured illustrates how a curve can be seen as part of a circle.


3. Rope Coils

IMG_3422     IMG_3422a

My intention with this shot was to use curves as a contrast of line – the ‘S’ shape of the rope across the frame against the background of the harbour. I also like the way the curves are repeated by the coils at the bottom of the frame.

4. Harbour Wall

IMG_3424     IMG_3424a

Again I was looking for a diagonal shot but saw the contrasting light and shadows on the harbour wall producing some visual curves.


Although curves are harder to capture in a picture than diagonals they do introduce another source of movement and influence the way a viewer will look at the picture. Compared to strong lines created by diagonals, curves are more gentle and smooth.