Where Walls Meet

I spotted this set of shapes and colours while eating lunch—I just had to get up from my table for a minute to get the framing perfect. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

I spotted this set of shapes and colours while eating lunch—I just had to get up from my table for a minute to get the framing perfect. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Raj Lalwani tells you how you can shoot interesting geometric patterns absolutely anywhere, even within the confines of your home or office.

My Assignment

  • Description
    To use geometrical shapes to interpret regular scenes in an unconventional, abstract manner.
  • Duration
    Approximately a year of shooting, when I was too busy to go out for a dedicated photoshoot.
  • Notes
    Walls, ceilings, doors, fl oors—basically, anything we see around us, can form interesting shapes and make great photographs!

Often, I get the feeling that I am not able to take out enough time for photography. Home, college or our workplaces can be extremely engrossing. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, I realised that sometimes photographers are just not able to get enough time to take the camera and go out with the specific intention of making pictures.
Faced with this conundrum, I decided that I am not going to keep my camera packed away, even if I am stuck at offi ce or at a family dinner. After all, there are great photographs that can be made wherever one may be, even within the confi nes of a single room.

My Perspective
The fi rst time I realised this was when I was sitting in offi ce, tired after a long day of work. I looked up at the ceiling, and just gazed into space, trying to gather my thoughts. Slowly, while looking up, I began to see the shapes being formed by the ceiling, walls, and pillars. This phenomenon of ‘seeing’ things beyond the obvious probably happens when one is tired and sleepy—you start observing things that you would otherwise miss. As I looked up, I ended up noticing a beautiful set of lines and patterns in what I would otherwise consider to be an ordinary, boring wall.

The Process
The first time I knew that there might be potential to what I saw was when I showed the picture to a colleague of mine. He could not recognise the fact that the image was actually of a pillar right beside my cubicle! That is what I sought to achieve in all my photographs thereafter—to reduce any area to an abstraction of shapes. Whether I was shooting a stairway and a wall behind it, a corner inside my room or the corrugated sheets of a roadside tea stall, I tried to break everything down into shapes. With time, I realised that the trick was to zoom in and concentrate only on the geometric planes that were being formed all around.
Soon enough, I saw that even the most mundane of structures can make unique photographs. I consciously started looking for such compositions, wherever I went. Whether I was lazing at home, having tea outside my workplace or even having lunch at a restaurant, I would specifi cally look at the walls and ceilings and try to spot patterns. It reminded me of my geometry lessons in school. I have always been fascinated by mathematics and shapes. Similarly, the manner in which the lines of any wall or pillar merge with the ceiling can be mindboggling.
In addition to identifying a geometric visual, there were certain things that helped me strengthen this series of images. I found that colour is extremely important—all the images have only one or two dominant colours as they are usually pictures of one or two different walls. Also, simplicity has been the key. It is sometimes tempting to include an extra element—like a wall painting, a fl yor a man walking across the stairway, but I tried to streamline the series by concentrating only on shapes.
A series like this one is satisfying in a number of different ways. I do not complain any longer when things get hectic. More importantly, the eye is seeking images all the time, which goes a long way in developing one’s skills as a photographer. True to its spirit, working on this assignment has been like solving a geometric problem. Whether you are in a maths class or shooting shapes around you, it is all about concentrating on the intricacies of a large structure.

My Equipment: All these images were shot with a variety of cameras—from highend DSLRs to basic compact cameras. Once you identify and visualise the frame, any camera can do the job.

Visualising Geometry in Your Daily Life

  • See Where the Walls Meet: Look at the area where a pillar or wall meets another wall or meets the ceiling. Observe the planes, corners and vertices and compose your frame.
  • Give the Mundane a New Perspective: Depart from the obvious way of seeing things. A regular room or seemingly boring wall can make a great abstract, when viewed from the right angle.
  • Basics of Composition: All the basic rules of composition apply. Try and make the fi gure as ‘geometric’ as possible by including lines and triangles that form naturally.
  • Technique is Key: Such images look best when they are sharp throughout the frame. So use a narrow aperture, or even shoot with a compact camera that gives you a larger depth-of-field.

To see more of Raj’s work log on to his website www.rajlalwani.com

Tags: Raj Lalwani, February 2011, walls, geometry, graphical images