Project 1.1 – The Golden Ratio

Working title: The Use the Golden Ratio in Modern Photography

What is the intended idea of the project?

To examine the use the Golden Ratio in modern photography and photographer perceptions about its value in creating ‘visually pleasing” photographs

Why do you want to carry out this project?

When I started taking photography seriously, I found that the composition of images came very naturally to me. I did not think consciously about the placement of objects and balancing the frame. I applied the ‘rule’ of the Golden Ratio without realizing that such a rule existed as a long established principle for producing works of art and architecture, which subsequently influenced photography practice.

This made me curious about why the principle of the Golden Ratio came so naturally to me. Was it because I have grown up being bombarded by media images that use the Golden Ratio? If so has the practice of other professional or amateur photographers also been influenced consciously or subconsciously by this principle? Or is there something more deep rooted and intuitive about the Golden Ratio? Or more controversially is the Golden Ratio a ‘rule’ that limits creativity in photography?

Describe the intended audience:

My intended audience includes: those with an interest in the guiding principles of creative photography and those who wish to examine the enduring legacy and appeal of the Golden Ratio on modern photographic practice.

Outline how the project will be carried out and the time-scales involved for each task:

1. To explore the concept of the Golden Ratio and its historic use in art, architecture and photography.

2. To examine how the Golden Ratio is used in modern media images.

3. To investigate the use of the Golden Ratio by ‘trained’ and ‘untrained’ photographers in creating ‘visually interesting’ images.

4. To offer some personal reflections on the ubiquity of the Golden Ratio in modern photography.

• Why photographers commonly use the Golden Ratio
• Why there may be differences between ‘trained’ and ‘untrained’ photographers (not just intuitive, but also about learning the ‘rules’ of photography)
• Why the rules don’t always work (the Golden Ratio may limit good composition and creativity)

Task 1)

My initial research will involve activities to develop a better understanding of the principles and practice underpinning the concept of the golden ratio. I will then examine the historic use of the golden ratio in art, architecture and photography. This will involve literature and internet searches to find texts additional to those that I have already identified (see below). I will blog the results of this work as I proceed with the project. I will undertake searches within the first two/three weeks of the project. Further searches will be carried throughout the project.

Task 2)

The next task will lead on from the initial research, but define it further within the context of modern photography. For this I will look at the work of well known contemporary photographers and analyze the ways in which they use the golden ratio within their photography. I will also look at different products of media industry (magazines, adverts, newspapers and movies) to examine how the golden ratio is used in these media. I will examine the views of those who see the golden ratio as a barrier to creative photography. This work will be started during task 1 (week three) and should be completed by week five.

Task 3)

Task three will involve willing volunteers composed of people who have had no training in photography (that is people who class themselves as “snapshot” photographers) and people who class photography as a serious hobby or as part of their profession (that is ‘trained’ photographers). They will each be given a disposable camera for a week and expected to take “visually pleasing” photographs. The interpretation of a “visually pleasing” image will be left upon the volunteer. Only after this exercise will the volunteer know about the tracking of the composition used within their photographs. The photographs and results will be uploaded onto a website as the output method. This task will start in week five and end in week nine.

Task 4)

In task four I will set out my own thoughts and reflections on the use the golden ratio in modern photography and photographer perceptions about its value in creating ‘visually pleasing” images. I will undertake this task through the use of secondary research material collected in Task 2 and the use of primary research material collected in Task 3. Specifically I will offer some personal thoughts on:
• Why photographers commonly use the Golden Ratio.
• Why there may be differences between ‘trained’ and ‘untrained’ photographers (not just intuitive but also about learning the ‘rules’ of photography).
• Why the rules don’t always work (the Golden Ratio may limit good composition and creativity).
My overall aim will be to offer some personal observations on the uses and abuses of the golden ratio in modern photography. I will carry out this work in week 10 of the project

What other work (by artists, designers, film-makers, writers, new media producers, etc.) is relevant to your project? (This work may either be relevant for its conceptual or technical similarity):

Facebook – or more specifically users on Facebook’s photos.
Leonardo Da Vinci
Ron Arad
Steven Sagmeister
Neville Brody
Ansel Adams
Vincent LaForet
Alfred Eisenstaedt
Henri Cartier-Bresson
Chase Jarvis

List any critical texts that are relevant to your conceptual intentions:

The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, the World’s Most Astonishing Number – Mario Livio

The Golden Section: Nature’s Greatest Secret – Scott Olsen

The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos – Michael Freeman

The Divine Proportion – H. E. Huntley

The Geometry of Art and Life – Matila Ghyka

Identify technical issues that you may encounter in order to produce your project in the chosen delivery mechanism?

• Ensure that my literature/internet searches in task 1 are manageable in the time available
• Selecting a suitable sample of photographic images for task 2
• Finding a suitable cross section of volunteers to support my primary research is task 3
• Developing a suitable website to report on the emerging findings of this project

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