Ancient Greeks were not the only ones who
understood the Golden Ratio. Egyptians used the Golden Ratio for their
pyramids and the layout of the three great pyramids of Giza use the curve
of the Golden Ratio that is predominant in a nautilus shell.
This is all heady stuff, especially for math
idiots like me who can barely remember the multiplication table. I am sure
I have offended the logical readers who actually know about this stuff
with my most basic of descriptions for the Golden Ratio. What does this
have to do with photography?
Photography is a pursuit that can be many
things to different people. If we look at photography as being an art form
like painting (and really they are no different) then the artist must have
at least a cursory understanding of artistic principles. Aesthetics, what
is it and why is something considered aesthetic?
Since it is naturally abundant, the Golden
Ratio, once discovered, would obviously have profound influences on human
art. Place a number of similar artifacts in a room and the one that
adheres to the Golden Ratio is the one most people will choose as being
the most pleasing. As humanity is a part of the natural world, it should
hold that we ourselves could be some sort of derivative of the Golden
Ratio in terms of the relationship of our limbs to the torso to the
Understanding some of the basic technique can
helps us understand why it is that we find something to be pleasing to the
eye. However, I still believe that the majority of the photographer's
development must be borne from experience rather than theory. It is not so
much what we do right that teaches us but what we do wrong or do not know.
As we attempt to correct the wrong or understand what is unknown, the
process has more meaning and teaches us. If we do something correctly
right away, there is less incentive to understand how we did it right, if
we did it correct once we will do it again. Try to keep the conceit in
check on those occasions when you hit all the right factors and create a
special keeper photograph. Use it as the basis to inspire you to keep on
producing high quality and creative work.
There are some photographers who adhere
strongly to mathematical or technical placement of the subject in the
scene. I do not believe there is a need to be so strict and vigorous in
composition, also because I would not even know how to use the Golden
Ratio for my composition anyway. My opinion is that humans have the
ability to "see" what is pleasing and what is not and the more you
practice the craft the better you will develop your sense of seeing. Being
rigid with your photography will reveal themselves soon enough.
We witness something and we feel compelled to
explain it. We see a certain trend in how humans react to certain types of
designs and try to explain that too. Sometimes it is better to look, feel,
and experience rather than take cold numbers or equations to an idea or
concept, especially when dealing with the creative process. Science and
math have their place though for I would rather live in a house designed
by a trained architect instead of an untrained artist, no matter how
Update September 1, 2001 - As I type
this now, I have just watched The Learning Channel's (TLC) special on the
human face, hosted by John Cleese of Monty Python fame. A short segment of
the special dealt with a ratio, a certain 1.618 ratio in fact, otherwise
known as the Golden Ratio. I mentioned above that the Golden Ratio is
associated with what humans consider to be attractive and the TLC special
made it very clear how this ratio pops up over and over again for the
human body and face. Why are models considered so attractive and why is it
that only certain girls are recruited to become models? The TLC special
revealed that all of the top models and faces in general that are
considered beautiful have an abundance of the 1.618 ratio.
Take a measurement from you feet to your
torso, then from your torso to the top of your head. The second
measurement on an attrative body will be a ratio of 1.618 to the first
measurement. Measure the width of your mouth at rest then measure the
width of your nose, the ratio on an attractive face will be...1.618. The
Golden Ratio pops up over and over again for what humans consider to be
attrative and it is becoming more and more clear to me that it is a
natural phenomenon so pervasive that Pythagoras called it a universal
beauty so many thousands of years ago.
Now the challenge is how to incorporate this
universal ratio of beauty into our photography as artists. I am going to
have to research the art of the Renaissance era to gain some more insight
into how the masters of old saw and created.
Reference page for more detailed and technical
information on the Golden Ratio.