The Dutch an­gle

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

Straight out of 20th cen­tury cinema, tilt­ing the cam­era strongly to one side has an oc­ca­sional place in the reper­toire of cam­era an­gles, but tends to arouse fairly strong opin­ions for and against. Called the Dutch an­gle in the movies (ac­tu­ally from Deutsch, re­fer­ring to its first use in Ger­man Ex­pres­sion­is­tic cinema), the main pur­pose of the an­gle is to in­tro­duce a sense of un­ease in the au­di­ence, as in film noir movies such as The Third Man.

It works slightly less ag­gres­sively in still pho­tog­ra­phy, but even so the tilt needs to be quite strong in or­der to make it look in­ten­tional rather than just sloppy. You re­ally should have a rea­son to use it, which may be graphic (to make some­thing align), to make the scene fit or – bet­ter still – to con­vey a mood.

Both Robert Frank and Garry Wino­grand used it for its dis­jointed ef­fect. The shot be­low, of a typ­i­cally drunken Fri­day night on the Tokyo sub­way, seemed to call for the ef­fect, and there is an align­ment (as the il­lus­tra­tion shows). Martin Scors­ese wrote of The Third

Man: “There’s this ex­tra­or­di­nary sense of a world that’s come apart, ac­cen­tu­ated by the off-cen­tred cam­eras, the canted an­gles.”

Tilt­ing the cam­era un­der­lines the typ­i­cal af­ter­math of af­ter-work drink­ing in Tokyo, and also solves the prob­lem of empty floor space by lin­ing up feet and brief­case with the lower edge of the frame.

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