When László Moholy-Nagy was experimenting with the photographic apparatus at the Bauhaus during the 1920’s, he noted the cameras ability to “Render apparently familiar things in an unfamiliar way”, provoking the discovery of a new and beautiful abstract world. When working with a group of primary school students this week, I ran a photographic workshop with only one rule: Fill the entire photograph with a single colour. As the students began work they realised that in order to isolate colours, you are often required to move the camera in very close to the subject. At times the short distances between camera and subject are far beyond the focusing ability of the lens. The results were an interesting series of photographs that were often out of focus and a step removed from recognisable form.
“The possibilities for distortion offered by the camera lens: view from above, view from below, oblique view, give a unprejudiced perspective which our eyes governed by associative thinking do not achieve.”
As the students shared their work throughout the afternoon, we discussed the images and explored creative ways to further isolate colours. Students began putting the camera on the ground, inside objects, underneath and above. Whenever I noticed a stray object or colour in the corner of a photograph I would ask the student why they had chosen to included it. Reminding the students to take responsibility for everything they put inside the frame helped them make conscious decisions about composition and perspective.
I always encourage students to evaluate and question the inclusion of every single element. Every line, every colour and every shape either enhances or dilutes the meaning inside an image. Before you release the shutter next time take a moment to scan the frame and ask yourself, “Is this tree, line or [insert favourite object here] important to my story. If not how can I remove it?”