Photo Essay

Triangular motifs create harmony in images

The beauty of the triangle comes from its simplicity and completeness, which all good photographers are able to exploit to provide enduring and unforgettable images.

In any type of image-making, this simplicity is classically expressed through the Golden Triangle idea. The frame is divided by a diagonal line from corner to corner and two lines from the opposite corners, meeting the diagonal at 90 degrees. Filling the triangles, this formula effectively provides a harmonious narrative composition, a technique which has been exploited by image-makers across the ages.

So in photography, the triangle serves as both a divider and unifier of space. It is at once unifying through its precision and harmony, but isolating, with distant corners and empty central space, and an intractable boundary. Optical harmony may come through the overall composition following classical Golden Triangle rules or the positioning of elements in a harmonious, triangular narrative, or even multiple iterations of the triangle appearing within a single image.

The dreamlike image of the two sleeping boys exploits the classical Golden Triangle rule, and multiple overlays and reiterations of the rule are given through reflections, opposing edges and the pleasing overall composition.

The joyful image of the woman with the pony is filled with triangular motifs. She and her pony are placed centrally on the corner of the pavement, so that the road markings, diminishing perspective in the street behind, a patch of sky, angles of architecture, and even bunting, add to the completed feel of the image. The presence of the pony and the fresh dry cleaning, prompt intrigue and adds playfulness.

Similarly, the elevated view of Dhobi Ghat in Mumbai allows the eye to be drawn upwards and outwards through the triangular convergence of washing lanes towards the foreground. Echoes are formed by the washing ghats either side of the central architectural triangle.

More overtly, in the next image, anonymous photographers in Istanbul raise their cameras to form a harmonious, repeating, triangular motif, which is given interest and ambiguity by the seemingly prohibiting hand gesture of an individual in the background.

A woman taking her exercise in a communal park next to the Bosphorous is faceless and unknowable but harmony and humanity are expressed by the juxtaposition of the triangular, organic softness of her stance, and the stark hardness of the exerciser she is using.

Finally, naked, silver mannequins, placed centrally within a seemingly abandoned space of messy complexity, are set against a background of triangular architectural features. A stairway, an angled roof section, and the positioning of an arm on a famished hip. Empty triangular coat hangers behind, echo their eternal nakedness and offer something melancholy and compassionate to the image.

Images by Peter Corbett, words by Vilja Wheatcroft

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