It’s an age-old exercise but I’ve never completed it . . . so, I thought I’d take the holidays to work my way through the list of Itten’s Contrasts, inspired by Michael Freeman and his book The Photographer’s Eye. (I wrote a bit more about Itten’s Contrasts here.)
Here’s the list of Itten’s Contrasts if you want to explore this exercise yourself. You find or take three photographs — one representing each element of contrast, and the third photo containing both elements.
I’m starting with one of Freeman’s own contrasts — one/many — only because when I was at UC Berkeley Botanical Garden last week, I just happened to see this particular illustration.
Posts on Itten’s Contrasts – by Keyword: Itten’s Contrasts
- It’s Not Imbalanced, It’s Itten
- Itten’s Contrasts: Day 1
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 2: Heavy/Light
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 3: Transparent/Opaque
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 4: Straight/Curved
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 5: Moving/Still
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 6: Much/Little
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 7: Smooth/Rough
- Itten’s Contrasts – Day 8: High/Low
Randall Saunders says
I have recently returned to a hobby that I enjoyed but gave up many years ago for a number of reasons. Now that I find I have some free time on my hands and due to the fact that Digital photography makes it more economically feasible I have returned. I was given The photographer’s Eye as a gift and find it very helpful however, I am trying to understand some of Itten’s Contrasts. Mainly the ones concerning Point/line, Area/Line, Area/Body, Plane/Volume and after looking at your photographs I was hoping that you could be of assistance.
Hello, Randall – Thanks very much for stopping by. I can’t say definitively, but my understanding relates to geometric form. So, plane/volume would be an expression of the contrast between a geometric plane and, say, a cube. With point/line, each photograph would illustrate an emphasis toward one or the other form, then the two combined. Like you, I’m not 100 percent clear on area/body.
Any Itten disciples passing through?
In reading various interpretations, I came upon a post at deviantART which had this to say about the exercise:
“You’re also supposed to approach the contrasts from three directions, or, as Itten said, ‘[you have] to experience them with [your] senses, objectivize them intellectually, and realise them synthetically.’
i.e. get a feeling for the contrast first WITHOUT thinking of it as an image –then list the ways of putting this sensation across — finally, make a picture.”
~ from Itti-project at deviantART
João Paulo Marques says
Let me congratulate you for your well succedded exercice on Itens contrasts.
I just came across Michael Freeman’s “The photografers eye”, at the library, last wekend and since then i’ve been reading it with the outmost interest. I’m considering it a very helpful book what matters all the approaches that I’ve never even had imagined.
One of that issues is indeed ittens contrasts, and no doubt your attempt on it have been very well succeedded.
João, thank you for the kind comment. Yes, I agree about Michael Freeman’s book. It’s a lovely, detailed exercise in composition and other facets of the ‘photographer’s eye.’ I managed to breeze through a library of photography books, but I’ve stayed and dwelled on Freeman’s illustrations.