The space between and around things can be the most important compositional element in a photograph. I made this photograph of the Merrill P. Barber bridge in Vero Beach last winter. It shows a solitary individual walking across a very long bridge. The bridge and the person are elements of the photo, of course, but neither is the subject. What makes the image memorable is the expanse of sky and clouds above the bridge, and the pieces of sky between the bridge supports. Looking for and using the space that surrounds forms is an exercise that I often use to improve my photographic skills.
Looking at this image set my brain off on a ramble about space.
My husband and I have a contract on the house that we are selling in Bethlehem PA, with the sale scheduled to close in less than three weeks. Before we listed the house for sale, a professional home stager provided by our realtor spent a couple of hours walking around our house with us. She made copious notes of things we needed to improve, while kindly assuring us that our home was already 90% of the way there. The next day she emailed us SEVENTEEN PAGES of detailed instructions! Yes, that’s seventeen, 17, pages.* A lot of the instructions had to do with making space so that potential buyers could visualize themselves – and their stuff – in this house.
We set about doggedly following the stager’s instructions and clearing out our closets, garage and basement. My poor husband agreed to tackle the basement and garage, while I started winnowing the closet contents. To my surprise, I began to enjoy the task, and my closets sort of became little design projects. Here’s how our coat closet ended up:
(I don’t have a “before” photo, but it would have showed: Coats and jackets for every season, jammed onto ugly hangers of all kinds, completely filling the rod. Snow boots, rain boots, and random sneakers jumbled on the floor. Also on the floor: a large wicker basket overflowing with dusty gloves, winter hats and scarves left by our kids who are long grown and gone, a vacuum cleaner and some attachments, a handheld carpet spot cleaner. On the shelf: messy piles of hats, scarves and gloves belonging to the remaining two people here, a hatbox with several of my hats smushed into it, a bunch of little black travel umbrellas, a cardboard box with yet more vacuum attachments, and several boxes of vacuum bags and filters.)
I open that closet door at least once a day now to admire the spareness inside. I feel much freer having given or thrown away a lot of my stuff. And I have reclaimed some of my space – the important space between and around things – that is often the most important thing in the picture.
Next post: learning to value the spaces in life.
*All kidding aside, our professional stager was wonderful, with a great sense of humor, and her advice to us was spot on! I recommend Jill Kratzer of Stage-Coach to anyone who is preparing to sell a home in the Lehigh Valley of PA.