Friday, June 1, 2012

Low on energy? Try doing a flip.

There are times the way energy flows in an image is a downer, literally.  Look at this photo of kayaks on the Potomac.

The direction of the kayaks in the water is downward from left to right.  The slight angular tilt of the dock is also downward from left to right. For most westerners, we visually scan from left to right, so the overall dynamic flow in this image is downward, from upper left to lower right.  Gravity wins.  The emotional effect is almost depressing.

 Thanks to a suggestion from photographer Guy Tal, I flipped the image horizontally.

Now the eye moves from the open water in the lower left quadrant, upward to the right, following the kayaks and ending at the dock with the nestling three boats in the upper right quadrant,  The slight upward tilt of the dock from left to right augments the upward lift in the image.  For westerners, this directional flow of energy imparts lightness, away from the downward pull of gravity.

Here's another image.  The fish are swimming from right to left, against the tendency of the western eye to move. The movement in the picture imparts a sense of resistance or blockage.

 Here's the same image, after a horizontal flip.

A simple flip of the image releases the energy in the dynamic direction of the figures.  The effect is liberating.

In our culture, we are trained from our earliest years to scan from left to right.  We might even be hard-wired for this.  Then, when we learn to read, we internalize the ubiquity of this left-to-right directionality.  It's no surprise our bodies react, complying or resisting, depending on the way things move in the images we encounter.   Artists can use this to their advantage, or ignore it at their own peril.

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