Incense

by Bart Arondson

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I watched this video of Online Art Academy about Design Principle of Alternation, where alternating light and dark is used to add rhythm, interest and vitality into composition.

An obvious example of this pattern being used in photography is chiaroscuro. But are there any other famous photographs (or even whole styles) built upon this principle?

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Alternation isn't just light and dark, it can be lines and curves, warm and cool, etc. –  John Cavan Mar 24 '12 at 15:32
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Now that I look at it, Weekly Featured Image both this and last week exhibit the principle. –  Imre Mar 25 '12 at 6:37

2 Answers 2

Hairlights in a traditional portrait are another example. Make the hair lighter so it contrasts against the darker background.

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Can you post an example? –  mattdm Mar 25 '12 at 22:41

I don't have the art-history education to give a full answer to this, but one interesting area where this is on display is in the visual arts inspired by Baroque composers such as Vivaldi and Bach. This music is often constructed in a formal, mathematical way, and the alternation of point and counterpoint is a key element. Paintings and photographs connected to this music mirror theses themes and often also have the element of repetition.

The architecture of the time (of course) lends itself well to photography, and since it too has these ideas of repeating, alternating elements, this intersection produces a lot of examples. Here's one from the Baroque Music Club, a collection of recordings of the music of the period:

Cover for Bach: Art of the Fugue recording

The cover of our CD booklet features the roofscape of the Grand Colonnade at the Czech Spa of Marienbad (Marianske Lazne). Its structure combines complexity and structural integrity with beauty – indeed the two are inter-dependent, and each may be considered the result of the other. Thus with the Art of the Fugue; this is some of the most structured, and structurally complex music ever composed, yet in its complexity and structural integrity lies the secret of its beauty, a beauty which can indeed be experienced and enjoyed without any knowledge or awareness of the underlying structure whatsoever.

These same musical ideas are explored visually in suprematism and in abstract expressionism, and in modern architecture, so alternation is also found in abstract photography beyond that taken from Baroque architecture (maybe particularly in abstract photography inspired by music), and in nature photography with a strong abstract tendency — for example, this series by Canadian photographer Robert Berden, which finds alternating patterns in the wild.

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