Lawrence Weschler has a delightful article in the Virginia Quarterly Review on the work of the young twins Trevor and Ryan Oakes. They are very original and persistent thinkers about how we see and the consequences for art. For example, though we’re seldom aware of it, our nose intrudes in almost half the visual field for each eye. This may be subliminally responsible for the claimed common appearance of roughly triangular shapes in the lower parts of pictures. (I haven’t attempted to confirm this, but it’s something I’ll be looking for in future, especially in abstract art; ask me again in six months.)
Most of the article is about a novel approach to rendering perspective, something that June particularly has discussed on A&P. Her prime example of Rackstraw Downes is another artist especially concerned with the wide peripheral vision, like the Oakes twins. The technique is essentially spherical projection combined with independent focusing of the artist’s two eyes, one on the scene being depicted and one on the paper being drawn on. The brain’s binocular vision, attempting to deal with this abnormal input, essentially overlaps the two views, so that the artist can “simply” trace with a pencil the scene that appears to be on the paper. I’ve tried this enough to see how it works, though it would clearly require practice and patience to keep it up. And it can only be achieved for a smallish angular range. So the brothers constructed a frame (see the article) which allows them to build up a panoramic image by building it up bit by bit.
This technique is unrelated to any hypothesized by David Hockney in his studies leading to the book Secret Knowledge, in which he presents evidence for the use of camera obscura, camera lucida, lens, or mirror by many artists going back to the Renaussance. Despite the popular interest, his conclusions remain controversial (see James Elkins for a skeptical review from a conference). For his part, Hockney seems to be concerned with cognitive or psychological, rather than optical perspective, as I mentioned in a previous post on landscape.
I haven’t been much worried about perspective in my photography, but I’m starting to think more about things that govern the viewer’s sense of spatial relationship with an image. For example, why does it feel that one is looking up to these branches (from Meeting Sky)
whereas those in the following seem to be viewed with a more horizontal gaze?
Have you had to deal with perspective in your own work? Is it something you’re aware of when looking at pictures?