Leading Lines and Cubism. Part 2.


A week has passed since I wrote about Cubism and leading lines. I’ve thought long and hard about this, and come to the conclusion that this idea has something going for it. However, we can read more into this than there needs to be. For that matter, maybe there is too much of a focus on composition, full-stop.

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Balloon Seller, Hydrabad

There are only a few references I can find that link cubism with photography.

David Hockney

This is the first ‘Red Herring’. Hockney is an artist, whose interest in Cubism led to photography. However, I would not class his work as Street Photography or Documentary Photography. His work is an art form. While I appreciate and admire what he has created, it is not an avenue I believe is ‘Street’, nor do I want to emulate it.


Eric Kim

Eric Kim has experimented with turning some of his Street Photos into Cubist styles of art. This is something that I will try. I prefer the original photos to those he has applied a ‘Cubism’ technique to. The final ‘Cubist’ photos he has produced cannot be classed as Street Photography (to be fair enough he never makes this claim anyway). I will experiment with the technique he describes, just because I enjoy playing with Photoshop. However, I doubt much will come of it.


Larry Fink

Larry Fink’s book is the one indicator that I may have been onto something. Larry talks about ‘building a box’ (p. 20, on Composition and Improvisation – an awesome book btw). Here he discusses a photo where the elements around the subject form leading lines, that are like a Cubist or Constructivist composition. You may be able to see a Cubist influence in the photo below.


Photo by Larry Fink

Michael Freeman

There are two books by Freeman I strongly recommend photographers purchase: ‘The Photographer’s Eye,’ and ‘The Photographer’s Mind.’ Freeman argues that Cubism came from the desire to simplify and retain depth. Simplification is something that is worth seeking in Street Photography as it allows the viewer to be drawn into the subject. Depth adds a three dimensional element to what is a 2D medium. Depth and simplification are often sought as a way to create an effective Street Composition.

My Conclusion

Both Freeman and Fink’s arguments lay some ground for my thoughts that Cubism can be a starting block for composition in Street Photography. However, I do have reservation. These reservations come from the way Cubism progressed – it became ever-more abstract. I do not believe Street Photography is an abstract form. Reality, should be (more-or-less) displayed in a realistic manner, and this is even more important if we which to be classed as ‘Documentary Photographers’, which admittedly, we do not all want.

What has, in part, led me to this conclusion is the photo of the month posted by In-Public, which claims to be, ‘The Home of Street Photography’. The photo of the month, is to put it bluntly, crap. So bad, it appears that the founder, Nick Turpin, has quit.

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In-Public’s Photo of the Month. Photo Gold or Garbage?


I love trying new things, and this photo was created using panoramic mode on an iPhone (I believe). Fantastic for trying a new technique, but to make it photo of the month for a leading Street Photography collective seems absurd. This is where I believe that my ‘Cubism’ argument falls.

Cubism, ultimately led to abstraction. Street and Documentary Photography align with reality. Street Photographers portray the world as it is, all-be-it in a very selective and clever manner. For me, In-Pubic has slipped up on this one. I too may have overstepped the mark by linking Street Photography with Cubism. However, both Fink and Freeman provide indicators that this line of thinking is not too bizarre.

Maybe it would have been simpler to state that leading lines generally lead to the background, but may also lead to the foreground. Now there is a rule that can be applied without controversy!

Take care and keep clicking, Chris

Incase you missed it, part one can be found here…


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