Thursday, 18 August 2011

Ancient Eye Placement Principles

In his feedback for my first assignment my tutor noted that it is conventional practise to place the right corner of the eye on the midpoint of the photo. While I agree that this produces a pleasing result I couldn’t help but wonder where this particular ‘rule’ comes from.

Scratching about on the internet produced the following research paper from Christopher Tyler – a visual psychophyicist – whatever that is.

Ancient Eye Placement Principles

The basic conclusion of the paper is that off centring the head so that the artist achieves central eye-placement is a feature classical portraiture over the last two millennia in spite of the fact that eye placement is almost never mentioned in compositional discussion or texts.

The suggestion is then made that there is a subconscious reason for this being the preferred placement, and that other placements are associated with negative qualities in the subject.

I note that Wikipedia refers to the eye-placement theory as controversial and I can certainly see that, from the evidence in the paper, the experimental method might be open to challenge, as might the association with classical Greek and Roman culture (does Japanese or other East Asian art follow the same idea for example?). However the basic idea that we are ‘programmed’ to find some eye placements more pleasing has interesting resonances with the idea of the Golden Mean – even if the maths does not quite align in the two ideas.

No comments: