Notes on Composition

2 commentsPhotography

In the Spring of 2009, I gave a class at the American University of Beirut enti­tled Montage. It was an enjoy­able and edu­ca­tion­al expe­ri­ence (for­give the allit­er­a­tion) to return to the School of Architecture and Design after ten years. While most of my pro­fes­sors from that era had left, some were still there and I was hap­py to work along­side them as col­leagues, while con­tin­u­ing to learn from them as men­tors.

Most of all though, I learned from the stu­dents, 19 of the most tal­ent­ed peo­ple I’ve met (and I would have had no prob­lem say­ing oth­er­wise were this not gen­uine­ly true). Although the class most­ly com­prised final year Graphic Designers and Architects who had spent almost every wak­ing hour of the last 4 years togeth­er, they each had their unique per­son­al­i­ty, vision, and skill-set. Their enthu­si­asm moti­vat­ed me to do my best, and I poured my heart into every lec­ture, spend­ing many hours every week to pre­pare the course mate­r­i­al.

To quote my syl­labus:

The course inves­ti­gates cinema’s unique pow­er of mon­tage, which cre­ates a mul­ti-sub­jec­tive space and time that may not exist in objec­tive real­i­ty. We will avoid the usu­al pit­falls of the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of space in cin­e­ma (the space of the archi­tect) and instead explore the cre­ation of space by cin­e­ma (the space of the sto­ry-teller).

This is just my bull­shit aca­d­e­m­ic way of describ­ing a the­o­ry I’ve had for quite a while now: Architects and film direc­tors think alike. We explored this idea through a series of engag­ing projects, many of which I’ll share here, but for the time being I’ll just present an excerpt from one of my own lec­tures.

This lec­ture intro­duces visu­al com­po­si­tion through exam­ples from influ­en­tial pho­tog­ra­phers past and present. I explain that the rules of com­po­si­tion are only called that for want of a bet­ter phrase, and am the first to insist that there are no rules — mere­ly rules of thumb and loose prin­ci­ples to fall back on, to engage with and chal­lenge. More impor­tant­ly, the pur­pose of these so-called rules is not to cre­ate pret­ty pic­tures (though that is often a hap­py byprod­uct of their appli­ca­tion) but rather to draw the observer’s eye and ori­ent it in a way that enrich­es the sub­ject of the shot and tells a sto­ry.

In the end, it’s all about sto­ry.

AUB Spring 2009 • Click play to begin pre­sen­ta­tion. Contains music and some nudi­ty.

This sto­ry is from Meedo’s upcom­ing book mon­tage­space: Cinema and the Making, Un-Making and Re-Making of Architecture. Please feel free to con­tact us for more details and read relat­ed sto­ries here.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Corinne May 6, 2010 at 11:58 am

I recall when I saw this a few months ago I had no idea you did it, this is great insights and helped me learn a lot about the art of photography=)

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Meedo May 6, 2010 at 11:59 am

I shows! How about you share a link to your albums with us? :)

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