Forcing your eye muscles to stretch

Vietnam has a rail system that spans the length of the country. You can, when not easily, but you can, travel from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the south to the border with China in the north. The railway is charmingly called “the Reunification Express”; you can as well reach destinations like Sapa in the northwest and Ha Long Bay in the northeast by rail, and on the way to or from Ho Chi Minh City the cities of Hue, Hoi An, and Da Nang in central Vietnam.

But the rail just served me as a medium to stretch my eye muscles in using one of my medium format cameras. There are a lot of different style cameras that use this kind of film format. You can have it with toy cameras like the Holga and Diana, as well on your smart phone with apps like Instagram, which are making the square format popular or more popular than ever.

Square format cameras have been around a long time. Photographers like Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Robert Doisneau. Diane Arbus used the square format.

One of the main attractions of the square format is composition. There is something different about a square. The viewer’s eye moves around the image in a circle, rather than from side to side. There’s less wasted space around the subject. You can place the subject in the centre of the frame and it just looks right, but you can as well use the rue of thirds, using diagonals and alike.

The square format seems to work best with subjects like portraiture, still life, architecture, details and abstracts. These are all artistic subjects – which is perhaps why the square format is popular with fine art photographers.

What it comes down to is that experimenting with the square format is fun and shooting to a different ratio forces you to compose your images in a different way and helps stretch your eye and creative muscles.

You can view the individual images here.