A theme that I explore occasionally in my photography is that of Negative Space. Negative space is the area around and between objects in a photograph. It is also referred to as white space. It is a concept that has been used in all manner of art, design, architecture and sculpture for hundreds of years.
The negative space is just as important as the objects in the photograph. It serves many purposes. It can bring balance to a photograph as well as strengthening the impact of the subject. The negative space can also help to increase the dramatic impact of a photograph, bring out strong emotions, and help to emphasis the subject.
For myself the negative space is just as important as the subject. As in life, what is not said is often just as important as the speech itself. When talking with people I call this “Listening to the spaces”. In my years of management and customer service, I have found that what the customer doesn’t say is just as important as to what they are saying. Listening to the spaces is an active listening technique that requires one to listen carefully to the person they are talking to. Many times when you are in a conversation with someone you get the feeling that the other person is just waiting for his or her turn to talk. They are not actually listening to what you are saying at more than a cursory level. When we listen to the spaces we are not only listening to what they are saying, but also to what is not being said. Often times people will talk around issues, giving clues and hints to what they really mean without actually saying it. This is especially true when they feel that what they have to say is maybe not important to you or they feel that they are bragging.
In my photography I like to try to invoke emotions. Sometimes these emotions are a reflection of my current state of mind and sometimes it is just an emotion or feeling that I want to explore. In the examples that I will talk about below I am not going to differentiate between the two, I am going to leave that as unsaid.
This first image is one that I call “Love Scorned”. I found these flowers thrown on the top of the algae scum that forms at the edge of Lake Ontario during the summer. I don’t know what the true story of these flowers, but to my mind there is a story of a couple going through a rough patch. One of the lovers is trying to ease through that patch with a token of love but the recipient is having none of it and tossing the flowers aside. I found that the flowers on the muck imparted a huge impact on me and the possible stories were endless.
My second image is simply titled “Ridgetown and Lakeview”. This image is a good example of the use of negative space. When I look at this image it invokes a feeling of how small and insignificant we are in relation to the world and the universe as a whole. This is an image that helps one to remember not to sweat the small stuff. I have often wondered if this image would be better with a big dramatic cloud filled sky. I have come to the conclusion that such an image would be amazing in its own right, however would invoke a completely different set of feelings and emotions. For what this image is and the feelings it portrays, I like it the way it is. Although a series of photos with different skies and taken at different times of the year could be interesting.
My final image for today is called “Lonely”. In this image the combination of negative space and the orientation of the rose is what gives the image its emotions. Had the rose been facing in towards the centre of the frame, the image takes on a feeling of hope. With the rose leaning out towards the edge of the frame and the rest of the image in complete darkness, the feeling that I get from this is one of loneliness or rejection.
As seen in these images it is important to watch the spaces between, in life and in art. The spaces between are where things will fall between the cracks. It is also where you will find hidden meanings. Explore the spaces and a whole new world will open up to you.