Visual Rhyme and Antirithm: Matt Stewart and Other In-Public Members

I must immediately warn that in this article I absolutely do not pretend to any truth or objectivity. In all the rest I also do not pretend, but in this – especially. All that you read below is my own opinion, and I will only be glad if you disagree with me and write your opinion on this issue. Personally, I could not find in any dictionary definitions of what visual rhyme is. Moreover, the very existence of this concept is controversial. It is quite obvious to some people that such a thing exists, while others are completely unable to understand what these first ones are talking about. Let’s try to figure this out.

Since the concept of rhyme has come (or is just trying to come) in photography from a poetic language, for a start it is worth remembering what rhyme is in poetry. Various poets and researchers, from Vasily Trediyakovsky to Yuri Lotman, gave different definitions of rhyme, but the essence of them all comes down to the fact that rhyme is a consonance at the end of two or more words. Rhymes in verses, being at the ends of lines, divide the lines among themselves, setting their length. The rhyme pattern and type of rhyme also determines the form of the verse.

If we correlate all of the above with the language of photography, it turns out that rhyme is two or more parts of the image that are “consonant” with each other. I enclosed the word “consonant” in quotation marks so that we did not have unnecessary synesthesia; it’s better to replace it with the word “like”. Parts of the image may be similar to each other in different ways – for example, the shape may repeat, the color may be, or the gestures of the characters, or both, and the third time. But rhymes can be different – simple and complex, male and female, banal and non-trivial … Well, let’s try to find examples of rhymed photos. We will look for them with the members of the In-Public team – one of the most famous groups of photographers involved in the so-called “street”, or street photography. Why street? Yes, simply because visual rhyme, as a systematically applied technique, most characteristic of this genre. In reporting, and indeed in “serious” documentary photography, rhyme is most often not needed. This is quite logical – it is unlikely that anyone would think of writing an article in poetry in a newspaper, except perhaps Dmitry Bykov. Documentary photography must truthfully tell the story. Street photography is not obliged to tell anything, all the more truthfully, although it can. Not really twisting my soul, it can be said that this is such a photographic poetry – which means that rhyme here is quite appropriate, although, again, is not required. Documentary photography must truthfully tell the story. Street photography is not obliged to tell anything, all the more truthfully, although it can. Not really twisting my soul, it can be said that this is such a photographic poetry – which means that rhyme here is quite appropriate, although, again, is not required. Documentary photography must truthfully tell the story. Street photography is not obliged to tell anything, all the more truthfully, although it can. Not really twisting my soul, it can be said that this is such a photographic poetry – which means that rhyme here is quite appropriate, although, again, is not required.

So, you should probably start with an example of such a similarity, which is not a rhyme. Obviously not a complete resemblance, or repetition, is rhyme. For example, in the following picture, Melanie Einzig, three men in star-striped underpants do not make rhymes, they are just three men in identical underpants:

In the next photo of Londoners who decided to lie on the grass on a rare sunny day, the figures of the people lying do not rhyme either.

This is not enough for rhyme, it’s just apt observation, like men in shorts. If we continue the analogy with poetry, we can imagine an imaginary poet who would write such (for example) lines: “I walk in the rain / Limes cry in the rain / Tears are not visible in the rain” – and would be glad how wonderful he managed to rhyme. Alas, this imaginary friend of ours, obviously, learned that rhyme is a sound coincidence of line endings, but most likely did not read the definition of Yuri Lotman, in which there is an important clarification: “Rhyme is a sound coincidence of words or their parts at the end of a rhythmic unit at semantic mismatch. ” For photography, this “semantic discrepancy” is even more important than for verse – precisely because the visual rhyme has no dividing or any other organizing function.

The red color passing through the entire next photograph of Matt Stewart also apparently does not create a rhyme, precisely because there are too many of it, and all other colors in the image space – shades of gray and brown – are simply perceived as a background.

But the next shot, again by Matt Stewart, is just an example of how a repeating bright color can create a visual rhyme:

Firstly, in addition to scarlet, there are other bright colors in the frame – blue and yellow. Secondly, both the woman’s headscarf and McDonald’s bag are quite small in size and occupy a small part of the frame, but their color is so saturated and the hue is so accurately repeated that these two spots undoubtedly create two strong compositional center, forcing the viewer several times to look from one to another.

A rhyme based only on color, as in the previous example, can be called a simple rhyme. More often, of course, the color is not enough, and to create a full-fledged rhyme, not only color but also form is repeated, as in the following two pictures of Niels Jorgensen and David Gibson:

Two more examples of a simple, on the verge of banality, but not crossing this line, rhyme from Jess Marlow:

And here is an example of a really banal rhyme, well, such as blood-love or roses-frost:

David Gibson included this shot in his portfolio, although I think this story was beaten before him. But to shoot it today, a hundred to five hundred thousandth time – you can, of course, but … it’s better not to show it to anyone later.

Several colors at once – also a simple rhyme (Niels Jorgensen):

I will give two more (last) examples of a simple rhyme from Matt Stewart. It is not necessary to specifically explain that in one of them the rhyme arises due to synchronous gestures, and in the second because of the similarity of the punk crest to the crown of a tree:

Another small step towards complication is the coincidence of the color and the complex shape or structure of the object. A pretty formal example from Paul Russell:

and a completely magical (in my opinion) picture of Narelle Otio:

Several colors, texture and … something else, elusive (Melanie Einzig):

Rhyming objects can be of different sizes, belong to different classes of objects and their similarity can be completely random (Matt Stewart):

A classic example of strong rhyme is one of Matt Stewart’s most famous photographs:

This photo became a photographic “icon” because it seems to everyone who probably sees it for the first time the same thought: “It’s obvious how I didn’t see it myself?” Well, albeit not to everyone, but many certainly come.

Maciej Dakovich found a non-trivial visual rhyme:

This rhyme would be simple if only a real cyclist on one side and painted people on a bicycle on the other were present in the picture . But the fact that the wheel of the painted bicycle, breaking off, exactly continues with the wheel of the motorcycle standing behind, makes it much more interesting.

The following example, a photograph of Amani Willett, shows how to turn an absolutely worn cliche into something non-trivial. Probably everyone saw the pictures in which a person (usually a woman) covers his face with a newspaper (or a book, or a magazine), which shows the face. It is clear that it is very difficult for a person with a camera to get past such a plot. Nobody passes, and as a result there are a million of such photos. But here in the frame, besides the face from the newspaper, there is another face. It seems like only older. Secondly, it’s very good in color, next to the blue face from the newspaper is the blue chair, and next to the lively warm face is the red chair. And finally, the hand holding the newspaper, and the woman’s hand on the right, brought to her face – this is generally aerobatics:

And the last example of a complex rhyme that I want to give again belongs to Matt Stewart. This photo contains several cross-rhyming objects:

And finally, it is worth saying that in addition to visual rhyme, there is a technique, which is, in essence, its opposite. In English, this is called juxtaposition; in Russian, this, apparently, should be translated as “contrast.” This is, indeed, a kind of “antirithm.” In photographs using this technique, not similar things collide, but something that is either the opposite in meaning or acquiring some unexpected meaning in such a neighborhood that could not have arisen in itself. Here are examples from Otto Snoek and Maciej Dakovic:

Featured Articles:

Composition in the photo. Learning from the masters. Henri Cartier Bresson

The rhythm in photography. Bruno barbie

Learning composition from the masters. Eliott Erwitt – emphasis in photography


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