Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday Inspiration: Jack Delano

When studying other art forms, like painting, you may be asked to do a study, or a copy of a painting in order to learn about the techniques that were used in its construction. We're going to do something similar today, and look at some work done by a master, which will, hopefully, give you some inspiration for your future work.

Today's master is Jack Delano. Jack moved to the US from what is now Ukraine with his parents in 1923 when he was 9 years old. He studied art and music at the Curtis Institute and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). Eventually he came to work for the Farm Security Administration's Photography program, which in 1943 was eliminated, and transferred to the Office of War Information.

Library of Congress Call Number: LC-USF35-86 [P&P]

This photo was taken sometime around 1940, along the Skyline Drive in Virginia. Some of the composition techniques in use here include:

  • The rule of thirds: the placement of the sign in the foreground, and the road, map out the right and left thirds of the image. 
  • Perspective: this image demonstrates the single-point perspective technique, where all of the lines moving away from the camera appear to converge on a single point.
  • Fill the frame: By framing the shot so that the mountains fill nearly the entire sky, they are made to appear larger. This effect could cause the mountains to overpower the foreground, but the perspective of the road helps to push them off to the background.
  • Depth of field: The entire image, from the foreground to the background, is in focus. (This is a digitized color slide, so there are some resolution issues with the digital representation.)

Library of Congress Call Number: LC-USF35-7 [P&P]
This next photo, taken at the end of 1940 or the beginning of 1941, is some detail of an industrial building in Massachusetts. Here we can see:
  • Lines: the pipes on the side of the building effectively lead the eye around the photograph, and add interest.
  • The rule of threes: not to be confused with the rule of thirds, the three stacks on the top of the building add interest to the top right of the image.
  • Pattern: the bricks give the photograph texture.
  • Centering: the division between the two parts of the building is centered within the image. By centering the split, it helps to balance the asymmetry of the building and piping. 

Library of Congress Call Number: LC-UWS36-561 [P&P]
Our final photo was taken in 1941 inside the roundhouse at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad's yard in Chicago, Illinois. This photo is a complex shot, and is probably my favorite of the three we've looked at today. Techniques include:

  • Light and shadow: the light from the left of the photo is ethereal and soft, which balances the dark mechanical aspect of the right side.
  • Color: this photo is clearly in color, but the framing and the lighting make it monochromatic. The only color in the photo is the fire at the bottom right and the light bulb at the top. The single color helps to highlight those details.
  • Curves: the way that the subject of the image curves through the frame, starting to the right, curving into the center, and finally curving back to the right, adds visual interest. Think about how the image would be different if, like the first image we looked at, all of the lines leading away from the camera went straight to a vanishing point in the distance.
I hope this quick look at three photos from an expert is helpful, and inspires your photography as much as it inspires me. I hope to do several more of these focusing on other photographers who worked for the FSA/OWI. If you like this sort of thing, please let me know.

The famous photo Migrant Mother was taken by Dorothea Lange as part of the FSA program.

All of the photos used in this blog entry are part of the Library of Congress' collection of photographs from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information, and were taken as part of the photographer's official duties. Since they are a work of the federal government, they are in the public domain in the United States. That said, if you use one of the images from the collection, be sure to credit the photographer, even if you aren't technically required to.

Programmer vs Software Engineer: The Interview

A common question presented in interviews for developer positions goes something like this: Given an array of numbers, write a function th...