Working the Angles

I started attaching the description “working the angles” to some of the digital photographs I posted on Instagram because their compositions focus on strong geometric elements. I also like the cheeky allusion to a con artist who “works the angles” of a complicated situation, using questionable methods to gain the upper hand. But I initially did not consider the pictures to be a cohesive group.

Last autumn I prepared a presentation of my work for an artist talk, and I reviewed many of the pictures again. Steve Ditko had recently passed away, and an obituary included this panel from his original Strange Tales series, featuring Doctor Strange:

Dr. Strange by Steve Ditko
(A copyrighted image from Marvel Comics, used here for “educational” purposes.)

I like painting, and I like making digital drawings and photographs, but my real love is composition: arranging visual elements to make an interesting and meaningful whole. Ditko’s excellent drawing reminded me that the hundreds of thousands of dynamic comics compositions I’d seen since I was a young fanboy inspired me to make composing a practice. That practice drives all my picture-making, so it turns out that Working the Angles is actually a pretty serious business.

Compared to my other digital photographs, these emphasize form over subject. I targeted lines, shapes, and patterns I could use to make interesting two-dimensional compositions. Using a monochromatic palette helped me keep the focus on formal elements — the meanings of the objects or places in these pictures is secondary.

I used to think I adopted the challenge of making square compositions after reading Rudolf Arnheim’s The Power of the Center in grad school. I’m happy for the reminder that Strange Tales planted that seed, because it is a much more compelling read.

Now that working the angles is a habit, I don’t expect that I’ll give it as of February 2019, this is an ongoing series. Click on each picture to see it in its entirety.