The Gestalt Theory in Photo: A Graceful Farewell

Photo Credit: Andrea Mohin/The New York TimesFound In: "A Compelling Salute to PosterityRenee Robinson Farewell at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater" by Alastair Macaulay, December 10, 2012

Photo Credit: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
Found In: “A Compelling Salute to Posterity Renee Robinson Farewell at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater” by Alastair Macaulay, December 10, 2012

It’s an article about the last performance in Renee Robinson’s career as a professional dancer, a career that has spanned more than 30 years. She performed at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the performance pictured is from “Night Creature” where Robinson leads confidently and stylishly in the foreground. Here, the Gestalt theory is used to highlight the importance and grace of a remarkable woman.

The Gestalt theory refers to the ways which humans organize features of a visual scene by grouping pieces of an image to perceive a whole. The principles of this theory include figure-ground organization, closure, similarity, and proximity. In figure-ground organization, the visual scene is divided into its “figure” – the standout – and the “ground” – the surroundings. In this photo, Robinson is prominently in the foreground with a bright spotlight and strong pose while the rest of the cast fade into the background, eventually hidden by the dim lighting. The dancers’ formation also helps separate figure from ground; the triangular shape of the dancers puts Robinson at the apex while the lesser dancers spread out to form the base, creating a direct line to Robinson at its point.

Closure is not used in this photo as there aren’t any gaps and closure refers to the perceptual tendency to mentally “close-up”, fill in, or ignore gaps in a visual image to perceive the object as a whole. However, similarity is a prominent principle, specially shown by the costuming. The dancers’ are all wearing costumes in the same shade of blue but Robinson stands out once more because while hers is the same blue, the pattern on her costume is different; there are black stripes and more design on her bodice compared to the bodices of the background dancers.

Lastly, proximity is the tendency to perceive things that are close together as belong together as a whole and it is used in this photo once again by the formation of the dancers; they’re all standing in close proximity to each other and are thus related in this piece.

Read full article here.

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