Every time I’m cruising through my liked posts, I always pause over this photo.
It’s not just this picture, everything El Desouky posts is quality and every third post or so is freaking brilliant. However, there’s something about this photo in particular that I find captivating.
I think it’s mostly the spot on-ness of Artemis’ daydream-y expression. Still, there’s something weird about the composition.
One of the things you learn when you’re studying photography in academia is that one of the ways you can balance a composition is to use the subject’s gaze to draw attention to negative space.
Think of it this way: imagine a photo of someone standing near the rim of the Grand Canyon–given that the camera is set up so that the edge of the canyon runs more or less diagonally from the lower right frame edge to the middle left frame edge.
You take two pictures. In the first, the model–let’s call him Edwin–is standing just back from the edge of the canyon at the left edge of the frame. He’s looking out beyond the left frame edge.
For the second, keep Edwin’s pose the same only move him so that he’s positioned in the right third of the frame.
In Photo #1 you’re seeing Edwin but you can’t see what Edwin sees. You might wonder if he knows he’s missing the view. Or, conversely, maybe he’s got a better view than you, the viewer. (Also, the human eye is generally more immediately interested in people over landscapes–thus: there’s a tendency to focus on Edwin without fully grasping that Edwin is standing in the landscape, due to photographs predominantly scanning from left to right.)
In Photo #2, his positioning dictates that you aren’t seeing the same view but there is at least overlap. It’s possible to follow the angle of his gaze and infer something of what he sees.
In the photo of Artemis, you can somewhat follow her gaze–there’s a bright circle of light (presumably from a gap in the trees foliage about 1/5 of the way down the left most frame edge that is more or less where she’s looking, although her gaze is at an angle that is slightly turned towards the focal plane).
Normally, this would be a trap for the gaze while scanning the photo. It’s not here. I’ve been trying to figure out why and here’s my best guesses:
First, there’s some interesting stuff with triangulation. That little black sprig sticking into the lower left of the frame? It forms a natural triangle with Artemis’ eyes and the aforementioned bright dot in the background tree. This pushes your eye left.
Then there’s the upward oriented triangle suggested by Artemis’ arms–this draws attention to her face but it also echoes a larger triangle between the three darkest points in the frame: the sprig at frame left, her hair to the right of her face and the area in the thicket of flowers near the lower right edge of the frame.
That thicket of flowers is rowdy and cluttered, but the slightly soft focus renders them a decorative anchor to the foreground without distracting our attention from the subject.
All of this is executed in a style reminiscent of the way Renoir tends to give solidity to objects in the foreground while rendering the background in a sort of teary eyed blur.