My mom and I were out shopping recently and we were browsing through some photo frames at a home décor shop. There were some lovely frames there and I commented to my mother that it was a pity none of the frames were squares. She wanted to know why it was necessary for me to always create my images in squares.
At the beginning of my journey into conceptual fine art photography, the format was something I deeply considered. I wanted to standardize on a format that felt right to me, for the right reasons.
It seems to be the “fashion” of conceptual artists to use the square format. I did not want to follow suite just to be fashionable. At one point I considered using a panoramic format instead – just to be “different”. I enjoy creating panoramic landscape images, so I wondered if this would make for an interesting twist. But I knew that a panoramic format would not give me the “space” I knew I wanted in my images, so I dismissed the idea.
For me it was a very conscious decision to use the square format for my images. Here is why:
My main consideration is quite simply: I love how square frames hang on the wall. Especially when you hang a group of squares together and create various formations with them. This might seem like a really simple reason, but since my intention is to create art that is meant to be printed, framed and hung on walls, this was the most important factor.
I really love the symmetry and how my story flows within the dimensions of a square frame. In most instances, it also forms part of how I capture the photographs I use to build my images. Typically I expand my frame in Photoshop to take the image from a standard 2:3 landscape ratio into a square format. This means that I capture additional images surrounding the 2:3 ratio of the scene to create the square. I usually do this by expanding slightly to the bottom and then mostly expanding further upwards. You will see me use this method in many of my before and after videos on my YouTube channel. This then allow me to add more sky, which is one of my favourite things to add to my images – and something very typical of most of my work.
Many social media platforms favour the square format. Even though Instagram, which I love using, now allows for other formats, browsing is still standardized in squares. When considering what format to choose, I again preferred using a square format as I did not want my images to appear “cropped” when viewed on social media.
I often use a centre composition for most of my images. I enjoy doing this as it centres the focus of the image. I find it dramatic and to the point. It also creates the symmetry I love within a square frame. However, a centre composition is often frowned upon in most photographic circles. By using a square frame, I do not feel bound by the dimensions and “rules” of standard photography.
I wanted my conceptual work to stand apart from anything else I had ever photographed. Photography has been a passion of mine for over 20 years. I have tried my hand at many different genres of photography, but when my life turned me towards conceptual photography… it felt like coming home. I had found my voice. That was a very special discovery for me and I wanted to mark that with something different to anything else I had ever photographed. That meant moving away from the standard 2:3 photographic ratio.
What is your preferred format? What makes this format special to you?
PS: This image kind of created itself. I had no intention of creating this image. I was in my studio working on another new image and just wanted to take a fun little snap to post with this article… and well, then this happened. I love it when images just create themselves! I had so much fun putting this together and used some techniques in Photoshop I had never done before. So much fun :)