Monthly Archives: October 2019

Busting Out of Rectangles By Using Squares


I have found that my local thrift stores have been filled with a certain type of item recently. They are known as shadow boxes or box frames. (IKEA trademarks them as RIBBA Frames.Link here ) Originally I thought that I could use them for displaying Polaroids but when I place them in, they look awkward and confusing. So, I too, tossed them aside for a while. But they were always on my mind so I aimed to photograph for them. And the realization made me ponder something . . . profound.

Most of the items we view the world through is done through rectangles. Our existing photo frames and albums are sized in rectangles. Our electronic devices are framed in heavy black rectangles. When I was involved in media, all the images I used were posted in rectangle shapes. And for those of us living in North America, those rectangles are measured in imperial measurements, giving us even odder sizes and lengths. So forcing me now to deal with a three-dimensional box with exact metric sizes was a challenge. I tried using faces in these frames but again, they look confusing. One would think a face is a simple thing but it is made up of: a nose, a mouth with lips/teeth, two eyes and hair. Take a still of it and try placing it in an item that is 10 cm deep with a smaller square frame inside and the face is muddled and lost. The same happens with landscapes. Yes, there is a horizon but the details – sun, trees, grass, – get pushed back and lost. So this became a puzzle that bugged me for the longest time.

I am having trouble finding the exact quote but photographer Bob Long told us who turn to his brilliant series on that black-and-white photography these days is a way of showing how light works. In that concept, I found a truth that guided me on how to use these frames. An image with a simple white leaf – perhaps with a drop of water on it or a outline of a darker leaf in the background works well now. I am now tempted to a small image with chrome or even a small cloud might work well with these boxes. And there are larger shadow boxes available I am considering in buying and trying out. (Link to IKEA here)

So maybe using the word “Profound” at the the beginning of this piece was a bit pretentious. But the act of looking for an image for these frames make me think a bit of the world and what it is truly in it. And if that isn’t what culture is suppose to do?