579 – Boulevard Of Dreams

I don’t crop my images very often out of their original composition. I do crop, yes, but mostly to take care of a slight oversight, correct a sloppiness of execution. I don’t normally do something like what I’ve done here.

The reason for it is, that I see a randomness in any format. Sure, there are proportions that please the eye more than others, but once the proportions are set, you only have the problem of using this frame to cut out a piece of reality, isolate it, make plausible the claim that this is a piece able to stand on its own, a piece that has its own, independent meaning. You make this claim at the time you take the image, and it may have merits or not, but if it has not, you have failed initially.

Only in rare cases I initially frame an image in full knowledge that I will crop it to, say, square, framing it for cropping from the beginning. Normally all other cases are essentially failures. Sure, something can often be done, some of it by cropping out of the original composition, but most of the time this still tastes like failure, and rather than cropping, I go out and take the image again. My ways are and my life is, that this is frequently possible and feasible. Then I go out and try framing again, doing it until I have what I intended or am satisfied that there is no proper solution.

Not so here. I was satisfied with the original. There is only a tiny crop from the right, that brings the strong verticals more on a third, but otherwise I have not touched composition. What I have done by cropping is the application of new proportions, cinematic proportions, proportions that tell the story better than others. I don’t do this very often.

Why do you crop? Do you? And if not, why not?

The Song of the Day is the excellent “The Cutter” from Echo & The Bunnymen’s 1985 album “Songs to Learn and Sing“. Enjoy the video on YouTube.

3 thoughts on “579 – Boulevard Of Dreams”

  1. Okay… you have opened up a PRIMAL question… what is the aesthetically perfect set of dimensions? Why do we shudder when we see circular framing? Why do we accept that some German engineers early in the last century created in the 35m format the “perfect” framing?

    Certainly the dimensions of the CRT tube are perhaps the worst compromise between length and width ever presented to artists. And perhaps the Cinemascopic dimensions may approach a very satisfying option.

    BTW… when we discuss idealized dimensions why do we first debate horizontals, then simply apply the results of that debate to verticals? Are they equally satisfied by a one-size-fits-all dimensionality?

    I think it was Paul Strand who wrote something like, “Reality exists to be cropped.” Well, those are my words… but his thoughts. And Cartier-Bresson who argued that any cropping from the 35mm format was apostasy.

    They were both great… one had to be wrong.

    Nope, won’t buy it to hear, “It depends”. What is the ideal Length to width? Oh sure we can deviate from that combination once discovered as the situation demands, but still, is there one combination over all others which best appeals to the human eye?

    And wuddahell izzit?


  2. It depends…

    Sorry, couldn’t resist 🙂

    But honestly, I guess there is some truth in it. I don’t believe that a “perfect proportion” exists, at least when it comes to photography. It’s the scene that dictates the crop. Unfortunately, in my mind, we don’t explore that enough – and the web is a severely limited place for such an endeavour, as the dimensions of our monitors already put a fence around any exploration. Ever tried to post a truly panoramic picture? They always become meagre shades of themselves…

  3. We mostly produce for a medium. Panoramic images are fine for walls, and even then they need much wall. 3×2 is not a golden rectangle, but it is definitely more pleasing to my eye than 4×3.

    I have a 3×2 viewfinder (and a good one), and by using it to compose, I primarily compose for that format. Doing otherwise, i.e. composing for, say, square, always needs some extra effort. I can do that, but it does not feel as natural, is another level of indirection, and therefore I don’t do it.

    On the other hand, accepting the proportions of a given frame is simply one of the many restrictions that we accept as given. See, it’s a restriction, yes, but it is one thing less to care about. At times this can free creative energies. Ultimately I am with Ted: It’s a good idea to reflect about these things.

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