Saturday Evening Post #153: When Nothing is Something.

Adventures in Visual Literacy.

Ahhhh, you’ve got that old Dejavu Feeling again!

I also apologise as there has been little to write about this end during the past week.  We have been in a lockdown hiatus.

I had a couple of interesting comments and emails regarding last week’s post, and at the same time had been following a Daoist website that talked about nothing as being something.

Let me briefly explain.
“Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its centre that makes it useful.

You can mould clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.

Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.

Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.”
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching

No Thing Ness is, it turns out, because of its usefulness, becomes a thing in itself.

The use of Negative Space as a photo composition element is like the hole in wheel, or the inside of the cup.  Useful because it is not the subject, yet. Provides a balance or harmony that gives the subject it’s power.

The lurking Minimalist inside me is always attracted to the simplicity of the hole in the wheel as much as the details on the spokes.
It makes us more aware of the importance of details in the subject.

It can be a contrast in sizes or volume that gives the subject some ‘breathing’ room.  As my old mentor, John Harris would add, it gives the subject a visual pause. Somewhere for the eye to relax.

And it allows the viewer to enter into the subject because of the mystery, and make up the rest of the story and emotion.

I found this motif on an early morning walk.  I see the building shape just about everyday, but with a dew on the structure and the reflection of the sky it turned into an abstract where the inside and outside spaces give little clue to the real world.

Nothing it seems is indeed Something.




4 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #153: When Nothing is Something.

  1. Negative space is something we all need to be aware of and, in photography, need to know when to use it to make an image whole. Your composition and the reflections here are enhanced by the use of negative space.


  2. You may have no idea how difficult it is (but I suspect you do 🙂 to spend all day designing, building, fixing and modifying things of an intricate nature. Zillions of interconnected moving parts, tracks , wires, pieces, 3d CADing things from various vantage points, PCB boards on PCB boards, enmeshed in mechanical stuff,to then be told to: Free the mind, sit down with a blank piece of white paper and draw only one line. However it must be in my mind set somewhere because I play bass and that’s all about, the bass..(sorry) its about being minimal. I love that about it, its truly the negative space between the notes that makes the groove work. I just need to find this space visually as you have here and stop filling it up with details, my default thought process. And yes the flickr image I feel is a “better” version.


  3. Thanks David for this interesting post and the concept you shared, it is very thought provoking and leads into so many avenues of application. Lock-down has been a productive time in unexpected ways for us all. Stay safensane, we enjoyed a walk and a coffee, on a perfect Spring day today in our 5 km radius, something we are only just starting to do again after 3 months locked-down. 🙂


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