Height­en­ing tex­ture through con­trast

Set­ting one tex­ture off against its op­po­site can help to em­pha­sise both

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia Freeman On... -

In the same way that some dishes aim to bring out the taste of cer­tain in­gre­di­ents by pair­ing con­trast­ing flavours (such as sweet and sour dishes in China, or cheese with ap­ple pie in Lan­cashire), so dif­fer­ent tex­tures can be com­bined in a pho­to­graph to bring out the tex­ture of both.

There’s noth­ing new about us­ing con­trast in this way. Dur­ing the 1920s the Bauhaus move­ment was hugely in­flu­en­tial on art, de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture, and in its Ba­sic Course, which all stu­dents had to com­plete, the first ex­er­cise was to ex­press con­trast­ing qual­i­ties of things, in­clud­ing the pair roughsmooth. Jo­hanes It­ten, who ran the course, called it the ‘gen­eral the­ory of con­trast’ and wrote that “Find­ing and list­ing the var­i­ous pos­si­bil­i­ties of con­trast was al­ways one of the most ex­cit­ing sub­jects.” Jux­ta­po­si­tion – set­ting one thing (shape, colour, ac­tion, ex­pres­sion, what­ever) against another – has long been a sta­ple of pho­tog­ra­phy, too, and in the case of tex­ture, it’s a rel­a­tively sim­ple mat­ter to ar­range. The ex­am­ple here, though, wasn’t ar­ranged; it was hap­pen­ing al­ready. In close-up the work-worn hands of a woman from the Akha com­mu­nity in Thai­land con­trast with the bright red dye with which she is dye­ing a head­dress.

An Akha hill tribe woman’s hands as she dyes chicken feath­ers. The very tight fram­ing lim­its the im­age to two con­trast­ing tex­tures: rough and dry and shiny and wet

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