Text and Image Photography

New Images Photography

Imogen Cunningham Went for the Details

Imogen Cunningham had an interest in patterns and form, which began with her close-up images of Cypress tree trunks along the Central California coast. After a zoo visit in the early 1920s, she undertook a study of the animal. She discovered the abstract black and white pattern of the zebra. In one of her photos of a zebra, she shows a zebra’s body from its backside to just before it’s front leg. Strikingly evident in that photograph is the pattern of stripes that show up as thick diagonal lines, which curve down into the bottom of the frame. The lines are memorizing, and appear to be an optical illusion.

A similar pattern is shown in a photo (above) that was cropped in the same way Cunningham had framed (or cropped) her photo. You can emulate her zebra photo at a zoo. You have to catch the zebra so that you can frame a view of it from its side to get the same stripe configuration in both the emulated photo and Cunningham’s photo. To get a sharp shot you’ll probably need a tripod because it’s most likely that you’ll have to zoom in to get a close-up. You don’t necessarily have to frame the photo so that it only includes part of the zebra’s body, you can frame it so you show the whole animal and crop it later.

This is from my book, 101 Quick and Easy Ideas Taken from the Master Photographers of the Twentieth Century.

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