Structure v Composition

posted by Bridget on 05 September 2012

Over the summer break I dipped into some of my old Aperture Magazines and rediscovered some thought provoking ideas.

In an article called "Form and Pressure", Aperture Winter 2011, Stephen Shore talks about his working methods and in particular how he arranges the scenes he finds when he makes his photographs.

For Shore what is important are the questions informing the structure of the image. Where to place the camera, what to include, what to exclude, when to release the shutter. In the urban landscape of ever increasing complexity the role of the photographer, he argues, is to bring order to the visual chaos. And he does this by selecting rather than by composing.

Composition comes from the latin compere meaning to put together. "A photographer doesn't put together an image; a photographer selects".

Although Shore may be right in his identification of the selective process, what Shore misses out is the idea of aesthetic judgement. Whether an artist or photographer composes or selects is just a technical point, what matters in the end is the internal logic of the image and whether or not it works as an expression of the artist's intent.

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