The Photographic Frame

The frame in photography is one of the most important elements of composition. In the Oxford English Dictionary, composition is defined as:

‘The nature of something’s ingredients or constituents; the way in which a whole or mixture is made up.’

This applies to photography through the formal elements, including line, light, colour, contrast, framing etc. The composition of any image is incredibly important as it can contribute to the narration and story of a photograph. Framing is usually used to focus the viewer on to the subject, but can be manipulated to create more interesting images. The photographer Arnold Newman has been known to explore framing, seen in this image of Stravinksy, the composer, pianist and conductor.

Igor Stravinsky, New York, NY, 1960
Stravinksy by Arnold Newman, 1946

This image is interesting as the subject is only in the bottom corner of the photograph. It seems to represent Newman’s work well as he states:

‘I didn’t just want to make a photograph with some things in the background,” Newman told American Photo magazine in an interview. “The surroundings had to add to the composition and the understanding of the person. No matter who the subject was, it had to be an interesting photograph. Just to simply do a portrait of a famous person doesn’t mean a thing.’

The way the image is framed does this by creating a close relationship between Stravinsky and the piano. Having him lean on the piano immediately combines the two and the size bf8fc207520c062d36b16dee7ba5300adifference could be seen to represent how his music is seen as important and influential.The most intriguing thing about this image is that this was not how it was shot. The photograph’s negative was edited in post-production. This demonstrates the importance of frame consideration and how it can instantly change the impact of an image.


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