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Shooting Squares

There's something very odd about square pictures. Its not a shape that is easily associated with modern day photography.

The challenge for much of the staff the last month has been to produce images that retained the "feel" of a photograph given the format. It was imperative to think differently when undertaking a Big Picture assignment, simply because you had to be aware elements of the photograph needed to fit into the "box." Compositionally, the square shape dictated some compromises.

Through the editing process its not unusual to find "the picture" within the exposed frame. Occasionally (for me, it's usually basketball or hockey) the cropped picture ends up in a square shape.

But this last month, shooting specifically for a square shape, I found the constraints to be very limiting. Its one thing when you've edited something and discover that it looks best with even dimensions along length and width, and another thing to go out and specifically fill such a space. I found, too often, I was cutting off elements of the overall photograph to fill the shape. The shape of the picture took precedence over the content. Without the traditional "horizontal" or "vertical" nature of the photograph, I found there were pictures that I immediately discounted simply because cutting out such environmental elements of the photograph altered, or diminshed, the photograph to such a point, I no longer appreciated the photograph.

Don't get me wrong. I do appreciate a square image. I think it works great in portraiture - especially if you want to establish a common look/feel to a project. But in portraiture, the photographer is controlling most, if not all, of the elements, ie, where and how the subject appears, the lighting, the background and foreground elements, props, etc.

This is not the natural course of documentary photography.

In the end, I did manage to come up with one image from last week's Roger's Cup tennis event, that I was quite happy with and thought would be a nice contribution to the Big Picture space. Unfortunately, it didn't get used. I'm still happy with it because it managed to bring together, in a very simply way, the elements of a tennis game and did so in a way a little bit different. The picture is all in the face of the player, and her eye contact with the ball.


As photographers, we are very happy when photographic art is given good display space. That's what we are all about. Capturing a moment of emotion, or fragment of time, or simply giving a new look to an everyday scene is what we, as photographers, try to do everyday.

I have found, trying to achieve that goal, in a predetermined shape, has made that effort more difficult.

Rick Madonik

Staff Photographer


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