Camera Position 69 : Go With the Gestalt (part 1)

We examine the concepts of Gestalt as they relates to composition. Gestalt is a psychology of visual communication that helps explain how the mind works to make sense of the visual world. This episode talks about “Closure” and “Continuance.”

Ascoli Piceno, Le Marche - Photograph by Jeff Curto Wood Splitting Tools - Original Orientation Wood Splitting Tools - Original Orientation

Photographs by Jeff Curto

13 thoughts on “Camera Position 69 : Go With the Gestalt (part 1)”

  1. Hi Jeff. Nicely done introduction to gestalt ideas. Looking forward to the next installment.
    I will, however, disagree with your opinion that the ‘flipped’ version of your excellent photo of the tools is the better one. I agree with your explanation of the right to left reading of the photo, but I kept being drawn back to the first version.
    I realized that being right-handed, it is easier for me to relate to the placement of the tools in the first version. I can ‘feel’ myself picking up the hammer more easily in the first photo due to its orientation. The second version requires me to have to pick it up with my left hand, or awkwardly with my right. The lines of the tools leading down and to my right in the first version also reinforce this effect.
    Maybe I’m feeling this effect more than another person might, but it’s interesting how I can really feel the difference.
    Thanks for an engaging podcast.

  2. Jeff,

    I loved the podcast, as usual. I must admit that I too was drawn more to the first version. I think that this has to do with how I imagine my tools once I put them down after working with a piece of wood. The flipped version just seems odd to me because I would not put my tools down as such.

    Anyway, I was sooooo happy to see another episode! I also love your explanation regarding Gestalt. I think your explanation should be printed in all graphic design books as it was so much clearer compared to what is found is so many books.

    Anxiously waiting on the edge of my seat for the next episode…


  3. Hi, John;

    Thanks for the comment!

    Hey, I was happy to see another episode, too! Man, time is definitely the tyrant. I’m really hoping to get back on a regular schedule with these things now… I missed doing them!

    #70 is up!


  4. Hi Jeff – really enjoyed these two podcasts. It gave me the words to describe something that I’ve been struggling with for a few years – I often feel I shoot things too completely and too literally – now that maybe I have a ‘name’ for the opposite approach, I might be able to work with it more easily.

    On the idea of continuance and visually reading an image that flows from top left to right being more comfortable – are there any studies on this? I’ve heard it said before but never seen any real justification. Do photographers in other cultures actually display a tendency to compose in a different direction? Right to left for some, top to bottom for others?

    Do subjects express more tension related to images where something happens abruptly on the left hand side of the image, rather than perhaps providing more ‘lead in’ space on the left before the subject of the image? Curious if any work has been done on this.

    Thanks again for the podcast – gave me a lot to think about.

  5. Gordon… thank you for listening!

    I’m sure there have been studies about reading left to right as a “western” thing, but I can’t cite them. I do know that a number of asian (born and raised) students and friends I have had over the years have corroborated that they are more comfortable with “reading” right to left in images.


  6. HI Jeff,

    Thanks for the podcast. I did not know anything about gestalt. Your podcast has opened a gate to a new field.

    Keep up the great work.

  7. Jeff,

    Excellent podcast. I’d be very curious to see the results of even an un-scientific study of your image of the hammer and wedges. I have a hunch that it may depend more on being right handed / left handed than cultural. I’m with Chris and John on this one. It would also be interesting to see what happens if you use an image where the subject is not something used in the hand. Another example of reading based on usage would be a simple image of a baseball glove and a ball – I’m betting that right handers want the glove on the left and the ball on the right and the left handers find it more “comfortable” the other way πŸ™‚

    I’m also going to guess that you are left handed.

    Might make in interesting experiment for your classes.

    Thanks very much for putting these podcast out here in the world. They’re great for stirring creativity, I just wish you had another 70 or so ready to go.


  8. Hi, Vince;

    Thanks for your comment…

    It’s an interesting topic, that’s for sure, and certainly crosses the “everyone agrees” line at several points.

    Interestingly, I’m not left-handed…

    I wish I had another 70 podcasts or so waiting in the wings myself…


    All best,


  9. Dear Jeff,

    I recently had the chance to catch up with the “Camera Position” podcasts.
    Great stuff as always…. Thanks a lot for choosing my suggesstion for the subject on the “Gestalt” podcasts.

    Best wishes!


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