When I was little I had a habit. I would become familiar with a room, and in my head I would figure out two ways of looking at that room. My dining room, for example, had two walls that met at an enclosed corner, where the table was, while the rest of the room opened up to the kitchen and different areas of the house. I could think of that room from the corner out, where it would seem very inviting and lively, or I could think of it from a perspective aimed towards the corner, where it then transformed into a sort of desolate meeting place. I had these two perspectives archived in my head, and I practiced bringing either out and viewing the world through that lens for a little while. Becoming familiar with exercises in perspectivism was probably a good thing, because now I can’t meander through any type of philosophical writings without coming across the topic. Nietzsche, Pirsig, Lao-tzu, Plato… pretty much everyone has an opinion, or a perspective, on perspective.
On the left is a photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson, and on the right is a photograph by Willy Ronis. Both artists were French and lived in the same time period for almost the same amount of time. Both artists photographed singular subjects placed in the middle of the frame. Both figures are in pedestrian areas, surrounded by buildings, windows, and vertical objects. These similar photographers were neck-in-neck in one of the layers of perspective: both wanted to capture the solidarity of the two men in their actions, and both men are in motion. However, in the second layer of perspective, Cartier-Bresson decided to capture a man in the rain, with his coat drawn over his head protectively. While the other man obviously has a job to do, Cartier-Bresson's seems almost lost and destination-less, despite the fact that he is walking. Ronis's man has a task, as suggested by the window, and the sun and his shadow almost give him a more concrete existence.