Friday, April 04, 2014

What Passes For Art...

This is in response to a Facebook post from a old friend, Scott.  He posted two photos, with the following:

OK FB world, this is art.  (Or at least what passes for art in my mind.) Please click on each picture to see it in full, then answer:  Which one of these pictures is better?  Cactus lines parallel with sky lines, or cactus lines intersecting sky lines?  Explain your answer.

Scott's photos:
Photo 1                                        Photo 2
 (reprinted without permission, but I beg forgiveness in the spirit of the exercise).

Now I previously posted my preference, with an offer to "provide a detailed analysis later".  Now is later, and this is the forum I chose to expound.  I'll post this link in the comments to the original FB post, we'll see in anybody clicks through.

Firstly, the anser to "which is better?" is:  It Depends.  For what is "better" but a construct of a critic?  And who am I do discern which is "better"?  After all, "where there is clarity, there is no choice.  And where there is choice, there is misery..."

That said; I prefer the Photo 2. 
I like how the lines of the clouds cross the lines of the cactus.  But they’re not exactly perpendicular, which would be too static (IMHO).  The sky is a deeper blue, I expect from the angle of the sun (behind the photographer).  This provides a better contrast against the green of the cactus.  From this angle, the clouds present  a more even gradient of white (top left to bottom right), which I find more appealing.    As far as the cactus itself?  I much prefer this version.  The cactus is a much larger part of this image, more dominant.  The closer positioning emphasizes the spines, and also leads to a sharper angle, giving more of a “vanishing point” effect.  The flat lighting allows the details of the cactus to stand out. 

As far as Photo 1? 
This is my “less favorite”, by a fair margin.  The lines in the sky are de-emphasized by the lines of the cactus, not reinforced.  To me, the left-to-right gradient looks unnatural.  Or, you could present landscape orientation, in which case the cactus looks unnatural.  Either way, I don’t like it.  The side-lighting of the cactus it a bit contrasty and makes the light and shadows a key visual element, rather than the shape of the spines themselves.  The overall color of the cactus is darker, and it doesn’t “pop” against the sky.  It seems to almost blend in, fade away towards the top…  Most significantly, I don’t like the angle from further away.  The cactus doesn’t hold its own in this version.  Rather it is left to compete with the sky for the viewer’s attention.
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So there you have it Scott.  That'll teach you to ask my opinion.  Of course YMMV, and all that rot.

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