How to handle portrait-format images in an ongoing weblog? is the question that’s been dogging me since switching PhotoRant to its current, 807-pixels-across form (why 807 pixels? I genuinely don’t remember). As Michael pointed out in a recent 2point8 post, there’s an appeal to the idea of giving all photos “equal time” — that is, giving them all equal area on-screen (in his case, 375,000 pixels), distributed according to whatever aspect ratio they have.
The troubles are in the tall ones. The 16x9 pictures I make regularly are 897x454 when put into this format . If I turn it those same pixels on their sides, the 807 pixels is just, well, too tall. It doesn’t fit most web browsers, and scrolls off the top. Ungh. Making a photo 512 high (as this one is) fits most browsers, but leaves the picture only 40% as big as the horizontal version. And the horizontal one is minimized enough as it is (then again, the version here is still a tiny big bigger than a flicker standard or “medium” picture).
I’ve come pretty well to the conclusion that there is no good answer. I could reduce the size of the webpage header, but I can’t control how many extra bars of lins and navigation tools are in each user’s browser. I hate the idea of pictures appearing so tall that you can’t see them all at once.
The relentless landscape format of web presentation is one of those attributes that have probably had more influence than we realize, and will continue to do so. Compare it to books, whose pages are usually portrait format but that can be any aspect at all. Is it any surprise that the default formats for internet-based book printers like iPhoto and Lulu are landscape-format books?
I have to admit that I slept through a lot of my CalArts “History of Photography” class. I was waist-deep in my own second-semester projects and the class was in a comfortable, air-conditioned and darkened theatre with deep cushioned seats. Sometimes I’d wake up and my friends would have drawn on me, with the approval (if not participation?) of the teacher.
One time I woke up to see this photo, twelve feet tall.
At the time I’d never heard of Garry Winogrand. The photos came from a planet past my comprehension, though I could not look away. At that moment I got the impression that the desperation I saw in those photos was a desperation in Garry himself. It’s an impression I’ve never lost – the belief that it must have been painful to be Garry Winogrand, that there’s a sort of weary melacholy in him even when smiling.
I wish I could say that seeing this made me rush right outdoors with my Nikon, but I was too caught up in filmmaking and theatre at the time. The camera stayed mostly on the sideline. Later on, when my shooting rose from its own slumber, this image and a thousand more like it were waiting just below the surface of my consciousness.
Window, Psychiatrist’s Office, Sunnyvale.