Born in Germany, John Gutmann came to the United States in 1933 to escape from the Nazis. In Germany he had trained as a painter. He found America fascinating, photographing things he had never seen in Europe—tattoo parlors, drive-in businesses and huge movie theaters. He also photographed automobiles inside and out as well as jazz musicians such as Count Basie. He developed new ways of looking at things, one of which involved setting your camera on the ground.
Looking up at what was going on was just as important as looking around. For Gutmann, many times a worm’s eye view (looking up at subjects from below) was the only important view. “I was seeing America with an outsider’s eyes—the automobiles, the speed, the freedom, the graffiti,” he was reported to have said in a 1989 interview.
The term “worm’s eye view” comes from the idea of looking at the world as if you were a worm, sitting on the ground. In order to get a worm’s eye view of subjects, you can set your camera low or even set it on the ground as in this shot.
Another photographer, Lisette Model, used a worm’s eye view when she took her images. A worm’s eye view is not only dramatic, but it’s also a way to make the foreground of your photo look interesting.
For more ideas like this check out my book 101 Quick and Easy Ideas Taken from the Master Photographers of the Twentieth Century.by