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Relationships

How the elements within the frame relate to one another says something about the relationships between them. One object larger than another might imply a relationship of power. The space between two elements or characters within the frame tells something about their connectedness. Objects separated by greater perceived space implies a relationship of distance or alienation, where objects much closer together might imply a relationship of intimacy. While you often can’t physically move the objects around, the laws of perspective allow you to do it simply by changing the position from which you make the photograph. By moving to the left or right, or pivoting around your subject matter, you can often create greater or less distance between those elements. Move one way and you bring them together visually; move the other way and you separate them. By so doing, you are choosing to tell this story more directly and with less ambiguity.

The same is true of vertical relationships—moving your point of view higher can diminish the appearance of height differences and thereby bring an equalizing effect between elements.

Your choice of lens has a significant role in establishing visual relationships. I discussed this in Chapter 3, but it’s worth a reminder: the effect of compression that various lenses create can help you tell your story by altering the perception of distances between elements.

Separate from the relationship between objects in the frame, your point of view, or chosen camera angle, has an effect on the implied relationship between the viewer or photographer and the subjects. Looking down on a man sitting at street level can imply a position of power over him—as though you were physically, and symbolically, looking down on him. Making the image from street level implies greater equality and creates a more sympathetic image. One communicates condescension or pity; the other communicates respect, kindness, or empathy. Photographing a statue, you might choose your angle based on how you feel about the statue itself. If you’re shooting a statue of a man you feel great respect for, you might choose to shoot from a lower angle, making the statue loom larger, creating the perception of power and grandeur.

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