A fashion model in short shorts reclines on the limb of a tree.

What Image Theory Photoworks is All About

This is one of Image Theory Photoworks’  most popular images.  Most viewers chalk its appeal up to the languid pose of a beautiful girl.  But the question for me is, “What gives her pose such impact?” There is the roughness of the tree against her skin and the gnarly fingers of the tree behind her that makes her seem soft and vulnerable.  There are multiple parallel lines that organize the composition: the tree trunk, the girl’s body, the limbs against the sky.  And then there are a multitude of triangles that brace and give structure to the image. The large tree limb creates a triangle with the lower left of the frame.  The girl’s body and raised legs frames the sky in a triangle. Her legs create another with the vertical tree trunk. There is even a triangle at the small of her back.

Did I deliberately stage this image to create all this structure and balance?  No.  No more than legitimate, creative artists actually constrain their imaginations to notions of golden means and Fibonacci  curves.  I moved the frame of the camera until the scene felt right, or close to it.  I edited the image, moving the boundaries, changing contrasts, emphasizing textures,  and eliminating distracting elements until it seemed to me that the image reached its greatest gravity.  Then I stopped.

Deciding when to stop is purely emotional.  And when my emotional “judgment” is good, your first response to one of my images is emotional, too.  And that is the first goal of all art — to evoke an emotional response. Art that creates puzzles, or chronicles ugliness without first engaging the emotions is not art, but philosophy or some hybrid of journalism and history.  I might be interested in reading that kind of work, but not doing it.

Here’s another popular image that succeeds without the appeal of a beautiful girl. Click on it for a larger version.

Set of nesting tables by Houston artist Austin Allen James.

You can analyze this pretty easily in terms of balanced geometries, contrasting textures, light gradients . . . But the general initial response is, “Oh, that’s pretty!” or something similar.  This image looks like it m ight be in some opulent modern renovation — a building with marble walls and concrete floors.  The “marble” wall is a painting, and the floor extends into the adjoining clutter of a very busy outdoor workshop.   It’s just an illusion that engages you emotionally and induces your to look at the tables . . . that the client happens to be selling.  

So, the theory under which Image Theory Photoworks’ operates is that emotional engagement is key.  We induce that engagement, first, by creating beauty.  Commercial goals — to  illustrate a product,  promote a fashion, or support a business person’s public image — all succeed by riding that initial emotional wave.