I am a little surprised at myself with this latest post from my Flickr contact Nick Pastinica (lightwelder); it is taking a very different approach to the subject of composition, but one no less important or valid.


To date, all aspects of composition I have dealt with on this site have had to do with the positioning of elements around the area of an image. So, why not consider how they are positioned – and interact – in depth?

This photo of Doina is a perfect example of how the arrangement of elements, to interact through superposition, can compel. When first I viewed this, my immediate response was to admire the subtle and delicate depth of emotion. It brought to mind the intensity of admiration people say the Mona Lisa invokes. (I should probably point out that while I fully appreciate the technical proficiency displayed in rendering that famed portrait, I have never understood why people think her expression so enigmatic.)

That the three dominant lines of water cut through an eye, along the nose, and finish by framing the other half of the subject’s face allows us to give attention where it belongs: to the mystery of identity. Indeed, it is important in this case that it is the water rather than the face in focus, for it softens Doina’s expression, while providing intense slivers of (distorted) focus through aquatic refraction. That those lines are part of a more complex – haphazard – pattern gives the intense allure an entirely natural feel.

Now, there are aspects of this image I think could have been slightly stronger – specifically the horizontal crop – but the mood captured through focal layering more than makes up for that.

  1. A fabulous addition for your blog and a deep and invaluable critique. This most demure and appealing portrait is certainly enigmatic . (Agree with you re the Mona Lisa although to me, enigmatic, yes, but just plain ugly.
    Would like to see what a slight crop on the left would look like for Doina’s portrait..

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