“OK, everyone outside,” my photography instructor bellowed, in a sudden burst of enthusiasm.
The entire roster of community college scholars — various drifters, thugs, portfolio-toting art students, and a displaced criminology major (who visibly brightened when I reminded her of all the top-notch mug shots she’ll be able to shoot)—trooped past a line of public service posters extolling virtues like keeping teeth “in your mouth, not your friend’s skull,” as we filed out the door and atop a cement wall in the courtyard.
The professor situated herself on a seat facing the concrete wall, and asked us to look down at her. “You are seeing me through a bird’s eye view right now,” she said, “and this is the one I’d prefer if you were shooting me. It’s slimming. You don’t notice my enormous hips, my big butt. You don’t see my many chins,” she explained, waving her hand below her face.
She then summoned us to a crouching position on the cement ground and asked us to look up at her. “This is a worm’s eye view,” she announced. “It’s great for making your subject larger than life. But that’s not what we want right now, is it?” she said, waddling a number of formerly invisible chins. “Just look at this wide shelf of boobs, these enormous hips!”
The professor was clearly delighted to flaunt her, um, features for the sake of the lesson, and in her boldness, proved a strong point. The concept of perspective was not new to me—if asked, my family would happily recount their sightings of me rolling on various grasses and kneeling in patches of variegated gravel to capture unique angles on familiar subjects. But as much as I’ve embraced the need to move myself and the camera to get fresh perspectives on scenery and still life, I have to admit that I haven’t been quick to translate the concept to portraits. Even standing on the cement wall, looking down at my instructor, I didn’t grasp the full significance. But the comparison to the ground floor view? Big difference.
But don’t jump to the conclusion that one perspective is “good” and the other “bad--” because that would be, well, bad. Both points of view are tools. Your job as the photographer, is to decide how to best use them. Capturing a toddler from ground level could be a really interesting viewpoint. Grandma, however, might appreciate the top view treatment. Accordingly, your assignment for the week is to take pictures of people from both perspectives, add the best to a post, and link up next week.
Speaking of linking up, did you shoot last week’s optional assignment? If so, add the link to your results below!