The Tuesday Composition: Diptychs and More

Chiricahua Sunset.  The combination of the positioning of the pieces and the positioning of the views (see text) combines to create a sense of movement.
Chiricahua Sunset. The combination of the positioning of the pieces and the positioning of the views (see text) combines to create a sense of movement.

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

So far in this series we’ve discussed images “in the box” of a single rectangular frame. Today, I’ll talk a little about ways to “think outside the box” and use multiple images together as part of a single artwork.

First, a few words of terminology. Diptychs were traditionally any sort of artwork or other object with two plates connected together with a hinge. These days the hinge is optional, and the term is applied to any sort of art in which two pieces are meant to be hung together (usually in a particular arrangement). Triptych refers to the same idea with three images. Polyptych is the general term for two or more pieces. Multiples is sometimes used similarly to polyptych (although the former might be two images printed separately on the same piece of paper). I’m going to stick with “multiples” here as the most inclusive term.

In nearly every multiple, we’re encouraged to consider the relationship between the individual parts of the artwork. The relative placement of the different parts within the artwork is one part of this; if the two halves of a diptych are laid out left to right, we’ll be far more likely to “read” the left image first and the right image second. To the extent that the images combine to tell a story, the left segment of the image will usually tell an earlier part of the story, the right segment the latter part. Not every multiple tells a story (Andy Warhol’s famous silk-screened multiples of Marilyn Monroe don’t seem to really imply a sequence in time), but many do. (more…)

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