I took this image during my easter holiday, standing only a few meters from my mothers house. The composition stood out to me instantly when I saw this house - and I only took one foto of it. Later I tried playing around with it in after effects, but to my surprise there was nothing I could do to it that would in any way enhance the composition or colours. It was simply, perfectly balanced. I'd like to take a minute now to analyse the composition to try to discover what makes this image so compelling to me, and hopefully to many others. The method is a list, first of general features, then going into some details, as you will see.
The most obvious feature of this composition, its main star, is the house placed slightly to the right in the frame. Especially the south wall stands out, with the sun striking it directly, and all around it there are darker details. The corner closest to us is black, creating a sharp boundary between this wall and the shadowed wall behind, and this line continues up to split in a y shap at the roof. The house itself, as a product of postwar functionalism, has an extremely simple shape. It is like a playhouse, a cube at the bottom and a triangle at the top. I will return to the house later.
Apart from the house we can say that this image has four horizontal bands of difference crossing up to the right; sequentially from the top; the blue sky, the white mountain, the clutter of houses and the ground. This dark/light/dark/light pattern gives the image most of its dynamism. The house is standing as a blotch of light on top of the dark middle band, and this contrast ads depth to an image which would otherwise stand in danger of seeming a little flat.
For a winter scene, this image has a surprising amount of colour. The two major players are blue and white. Notice the deep blues in the shadows, especially behind the main house. These shadows, as it were, bring the heavens down to earth, and at the same time reminds us of the fact that what we are looking at is mostly water. The snow is water, and the colour of the air is that of water. In fact, the shadow behind the main house has a similar shading towards a lighter blue at the bottom to the sky, though it has more of a pastel tint.
There are also three minor colours represented; yellow, red and green. The red and green houses, as they are of contrasting colours and standing quite close together balance each other out. The main house is yellow, but in fact, offwhite. The yellow coloration comes from the sun, and seems to give the house some warmth. The house is the only warm element of this wintery scene, and is why I earlier wrote that one gets the sense that this house is blasted by the sun. Almost imperceptibly the lines of the house are tilting towards the oncoming light, and I get a visceral feeling that the house is leaning against the oncoming rays. But the colour is not alone in creating this effect:
The two white fields, standing to either side of the house, has line that bend around the house. On top there is the rising mountain, at the bottom the the snow is set like a barrier curling around a few meters in front of the house. In this image, at least, reality has shaped itself to nest this house within its fold, and to give it a respect that may seem a little peculiar. After all, the house seems very worn and weathered.
Why, then, does this house deserve so much attention and respect? Using japanese aesthetic concepts, one could perhaps say that this house has a certain wabi-sabi quality; A history that speaks to us of its fifty ears facing the elements. But, this seems off somehow. It is, after all, not a japanese house. Is it that it is showing the age of functionalism? - reminding us that even our modern culture, wise to abstraction, is showing it's age. No, I don't think that's it either. The only answer that seems to fit, is that this house is so essentially a house. The essence, Aristotle tells us, is what is left when all the accidental things are removed. This house may have had a veranda, but it doesn't need one to be a house. This house could have had a fence around it, but this would be an addition to what is already, essentially, a house.
What we see then in this picture is the purity of a concept, delivered with a world bending force, singled out by the sun itself - except, for one little detail; a dark circular shape on the shadowed wall, where a parabolic antenna is half obscured like a half moon. This single shape put a crack in the pure concept. The antenna is accidental, an addition that tells of the human element inside, that does not care that this photograph is taken, or that the sun illuminates it - and I thank Fortune for it's existence. This antenna gives a dynamism to the theme, and highlights it in a new way that a "perfect" image could not have. Can an image be more than perfect? To even ask such a question is silly, and in a way every image is perfect and imperfect - but that is a digression.
A second thing the antenna disrupts is the uncanny rhythm and symmetry of the windows. Like the pips of a die the southern windows are evenly aligned, nine in all with double windows on the right. The regularity gives the flat surface sense of depth, which the enlarged closer windows help amplify. The same effect can be seen on the eastern wall, but the small top and bottom windows acting as points of symmetry about the horizontal axis. Technically, that is a rotational symmetry of 180 degrees, since both are offset from the vertical line in the same rotational direction. Our antenna remains a beauty spot on the facade.
Only a few details remain. The rythm of the windos lead into the third shadowy band, and leading lines are kept up by the houses in the background.