Compositional intent

Having just read that ‘intentionalism’, critiquing a photograph based on whether it achieves the photographer’s stated intent is “a flawed and weak critical method”1, I thought I would ignore that advice completely and talk about my intention with this image, called ‘Competing’.


The image was taken for a monthly challenge held by a local photography club I recently joined. The challenge was to take an image in the style of Jared Lim (link to his website). His portfolio contains many images with a strong compositional reliance on pattern and other aspects of graphic design.

My photograph, showing part of a solar power station near Alhama de Granada in Southern Spain, aims to create an image that:

  1. Links with Lim’s style by using lines and tonal contrast as elements of graphic design, repetition of shapes to produce a geometric pattern, and abstraction (helped by cropping to limit information about the context).
  2. Uses a ‘visual contrast’ between the rectangle of grass with its rough texture and the smoothness of the solar panels. (Visual contrast is a concept that Johannes Itten used as the core of his theory of composition when teaching at the Bauhaus School of Art, Design and Architecture)2.
  3. Could lead to thoughts about irony and ideological tension – the pursuit of clean energy to protect the environment having the side-effect of creating a micro-climate that destroys the previously natural environment of the hillside. The solar panels and the grass competing for the sun’s rays, with the shadows from the solar panels denying the sunlight the grass needs and therefore damaging a natural and renewable food source for the local sheep. A point made slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ but …



  1. Barrett, T. (2012) Criticizing photographs. An introduction to understanding images. 5th ed. New York: McGraw Hill
  2. Freeman, M. (2007) The photographer’s eye. Lewes: Ilex Press

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