Look Down And Take A Picture Of Life
Sometimes taking a good photograph is just a matter of point of view. The same subject that a frontal photo would not be able to enhance, can become extremely interesting if observed from an unusual perspective according to a vision that gives it an unexpected face.
One of these “special” points of view is the zenithal one, from top to bottom. Of course, that’s not new. It has been used for over a century.
It was created to capture even banal scenes, making them discover their expressiveness.
The typical subject is the passers-by on the street watched from a balcony. Better if they cast a long shadow on the sidewalk, capable of giving shape and identity to those small spots.
When they are many and they aggregate like ants, they become a curious moving texture.
This is still a very popular subject, especially now that we have remote-controlled drones available to look at any human group from above. Katrin Korfmann has made it a real specialization.
These communities, in addition to being interesting from the compositional point of view, are also interesting from the anthropological one. The way to settle in an environment or to move inside it tells us a lot about human nature. Just look at the beaches of Kacper Kowalski, the migrants and bathers of Massimo Sestini, the swimming pools of Renee Lusano or the geometries of umbrellas by Bernhard Lang.
Some photos, taken at a greater distance, are able to overwhelmingly tell the inequalities on our planet, sometimes divided only by a road. It’s Johnny Miller’s Unequal Scenes project. And these are the shots.
It is useless to indicate which is the poor side and the rich side.
Other photos also tell us of a land that is still beautiful, to be protected. In particular those of George Steinmetz.
Zenith photos can restore dignity to humble but colorful jobs such as carpet making, salt extraction or leather coloring. Among these also the splendid ones by Yann Arthus-Bertrand.
The distribution of similar objects in a more or less random way is one of the strong points of the zenith photo. For this reason another very popular theme is that of boats.
Seen from above, everything changes. And it can also improve: an ugly room becomes a curious well full of objects, a doll’s house that confuses and surprises. That’s how it is in Menno Aden’s photos.
But the room is not the only architectural subject suitable for the zenith photo. For the stairwell it is the very death of him! Because the staircase, seen from above, looks like a spiral that is lost in infinity, a nightmare, a hallucination.
Works for the most famous stairs
but also for anonymous ones.
In short, for a zenith photo of real artists you don’t necessarily need drones or airplanes and you don’t need amazing subjects (in my Pinterest collection you will find over a hundred examples).
You don’t even need sophisticated equipment. Because in the end it is always just another exercise to learn to look, to broaden our visual and mental horizons.
Just look down, even from the top of a chair.
his article may be of interest to you: Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Photographer Who Stops Time