#28 Constraints and Photographic “Games”

There’s nothing worse than a blank canvas. The painter Cezanne once said “It’s so fine, and yet so terrible, to stand in front of a blank canvas.” (I’m not sure he does that justice. I think i’d lean more towards this quote by Hannah Kent:

“People speak of the fear of the blank canvas as though it is a temporary hesitation, a trembling moment of self-doubt. For me it was more like being abducted from my bed by a clown, thrust into a circus arena with a wicker chair, and told to tame a pissed-off lion in front of an expectant crowd.”

Constraints are the savior. Seeing what you can do given some constraints (some technical: your smartphone will have somewhat limited resolution and focal length; some arbitrary: no cropping, black and white only…) Photography is poetry at its core, and some of the joy comes from working inside the proscribed form. Think limericks. Think haiku.

BTW: the parlor game of assembling parts of the drawing is called “Consequences” and is akin to the more general game known as “Exquisite Corpse” (not “delicious monster” but i love the mistake). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exquisite_corpse

A few selects from my shooting “game” at 40mph more or less, as i was driving around with friends in Nicaragua (2016). They sorta give the impression of intimacy but really are a snapshot of the facade of the roads.

“Yellow Taxi” (2003): The highly constrained photographic poetry of Gabrielle Israelievitch: three images, straight cuts.

“Yellow Taxi” (2003): The highly constrained photographic poetry of Gabrielle Israelievitch: three images, straight cuts.


Textures. Look around at the textures you pass. Grab pictures. See if you can push yourself compositionally. Maybe see what happens in b&w, so the texture is stronger than the colors. Share them on our Neomodern FB page (or tag them #everydayphotography in instagram).

As you think about texture, realize it’s not always a close up of a flat surface — notice texture as it wraps itself across all sorts of shaped objects; and it may not only be a close up, some textures reveal themselves at a distance. Just make the texture a key element of your image. Here are some screenshots of mine:

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