More on Negative Space

Space Providing Direction: Space can generate a sense of direction and movement that can compliment or contrast with the direction and movement of the subject. Space on the bottom creates a vertical “up” feeling. Space on the top emphasizes “down.” Space on the left pushes elements to the right while space on the right pushes elements to the left, as in the photo of the vase. Space can draw the eye into an image and also lead the eye out of the image.

Amount of Space: Some people like to create equal amounts of negative and positive space in a composition to produce a harmonious balance. Having too much or too little of one or the other might ruin a photograph by making the composition seem awkward, overwhelming, or unstable. Too much space can make the subject look insignificant, insubstantial, or lost. Too little space makes the subject appear cramped and the image too crowded; there’s no sense of “absorbability.”

However, a perfect balance often is not necessary or even desirable. Playing with the proportions of negative to positive space can yield interesting results. A generous amount of space can make the subject stand out. As the subject gets bigger, it begins to activate and balance the space, eventually reaching a point where the figure dominates the ground, especially when the space is evenly distributed and uninteresting in shape. When the subject is small and the shape of the space is interesting, the ground dominates the figure. In some compositions, you might deliberately tilt the balance of negative and positive space in order to create a feeling of the subject being awkward, unstable, insignificant, cramped, or lost – as in the photo of the man on the rocky hillside.

Emotional Reactions to Space: Different presentations of space can conjure up different emotional reactions. Space, especially lots of it, might suggest quality, solitude, absence, cleanliness, purity, heaven, sky, abundance, openness, barrenness, vastness, silence, calmness, rarity, quality, luxury, style, wealth, generosity, simplicity, wastefulness, arrogance, or elitism. Think about space as a basic human need for emotional health. Think also about the psychological concept of “personal space” – how people have a zone around their bodies that they consider private. We all need our space!

Distracting Space: Try to avoid using space as a ploy that draws too much attention to itself. Sometimes the viewer might be too conscious of it. It can be distracting and might detract from the message of the image. – But what if the message is the space?!

Distribution of Space: Centering a subject tends to neutralize space by pushing it to the perimeter of the image and making it evenly symmetrical. Space on all sides creates a static, calm, formal feeling. It may not be very interesting to the eye. Placing a subject off center can activate the space and make it come alive. Unevenly distributed space tends to do a better job of connecting the elements of an image because they will seem to be grouped. Evenly distributed space tends to make elements float independently of each other.

Shape of the Space: Consider the shape of the space in an image. Is it interesting? How might you make it compliment, echo, or contrast with the shape of the subject? Space with a very interesting shape can compete with the subject. It can become the subject. Or it might establish a figure/ground “reversal” in which the space and the subject alternate as the focus of the eye, resulting in a sensation of movement, competition and tension between figure and ground, or even the feeling that the eye is being tricked. When the elements of an image create “closure” they may activate the shape of negative space – for example, a curved line of chairs that suggest a circle. In the photo above of the rattan table turned sideways, the table is the subject or figure, and yet the trapped space of the blurry background trees is so geometrically shaped and precisely framed by the table that it competes for attention as the figure. The mind switches back and forth between seeing the space as figure and ground.

i want to site some of Damien Hirsts art, not interested in whether the piece is good or bad.. just what and why.

This is what i am pimarily thinking, when i see this. it would be better to have it in front of me to experience. then wouldn’t.

I am walking down a space where none should exist. a sea has become divided by the sharpest wind. that is all there is now.. space. no longer life. no longer movement.

what i am primarily feeling is like there is a great crime in walking in between the half of a once living organism. is this now just an object because its in a box and no longer living.. well if they wernt in boxes they would probably be on my plate or in a butchers. so what does it matter. I feel like i am partaking in the crime. to enter that..”deadzone” between the pieces is to subjugate myself to the consequences of the crime.

also a fantastic and more horrifying example is this recreation or homage to Hirsts piece on the Hannibal TV show.


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