Marcel van der VlugtPassion Flower 4 from The Women series (1999)

There are so many things I dig about this that I kind of don’t even know where to begin…

I guess since it was made using analogy processes, it’s an actual instance of photography–so maybe let’s start with light.

When you’re Dutch–and van der Vlugt is ostensibly a Dutch surname–and as such, you hail from the same rich environment that produced Rembrandt and Vermeer, then there’s a decision to make: whether you continue the tradition of illuminating your scene with light traveling from left to right (the same way the eye is inclined to move over items that are intended to be ‘read’) or whether you try a different tact.

That’s why the layout of this is so intriguing. The light and the position of the model all push left. Look at the above image. Now I want you to close your eyes but before you close them I want you to remind yourself that you’re going to pay extra close attention to the details that jump out to you based on how your eyes scan the photo. Go for it.

Now: I want you to do the same thing only with this variation of the image.

To my way of seeing, this variation is nowhere near as effective as the original. The light and push of the pose in combination with the natural inclination to read images from left to right, makes the variation very much right side dominant. You notice the sublime lighting on the back of her head, the crown of flowers, the silhouette of her lips (which is my favorite part about this) but you lose the holistic totality of the photo that the original offers. (Like in the variation, I don’t notice the is it carpet covering the top of a table or is this something that was taken in a carpeted stairwell where the model is leaning against those intolerable Dutch staircases? I like to think it’s the latter; also, the light on her back and the tonal nuance in the soft gradient of the key light on the wall behind her.)

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