A new or different perspective intensifies and enriches life.
And sometimes the inspiration for seeing things a little differently comes from a surprising source.
In our family’s case, it was our 10-year-old daughter’s art class that led us to a new way of looking at things — and our family’s latest buzzword.
Four months ago, I had no idea what contrapposto meant, and I’m certain that many of you will immediately know the term’s context and meaning. I, however, did not. So, Piper and I learned together as we looked at and for various examples of its usage in art and figured out ways we could apply it to our lives.
Turns out, we’ve looked better ever since. In turn, and with summer vacations in full swing, I thought I’d share my newfound insight with you, dear reader, on the off chance that you are in the same boat as me (pre-4th grade art history lesson).
Granted, we have looked better in a shallow and superficial way (and maybe only in our imaginations), but at this point in (mid)life, one needs occasionally to embrace the shallow and superficial and just go with it.
Consider my contrapposto interpretation a summer gift for you. Do not consider it an art history lesson. This interpretation is not aiming for scholarly level. The dual goal here is to make you look better in your summer family vacation photographs and create more interesting captured memories. And for good measure, maybe you’ll also look at the world a little differently every now and then, spotting a contrapposto of your own.
Contrapposto, in Italian, means counter pose or set against.
Think Michelangelo’s David. Remember how David is standing? He’s relaxed with most of his weight on one foot. He’s holding a sling with his left hand, casually thrown over his left shoulder. If that image doesn’t come immediately to mind, imagine a mother standing and holding a 9-month old baby, with one arm on her hip. (She’s taking a pose very similar to David, except instead of holding a slingshot near her shoulder, she’s holding the baby on her hip.)
The weight-bearing hand and foot details are key to contrapposto. They make a hip jut one way or the other. They misalign the shoulders. Just like David and the baby-toting mama, taking the contrapposto pose makes a more interesting image. Why? Because these two pose details create a variety of angles — primarily triangles, in fact. For reasons I won’t even pretend to explain (or comprehend), all those angles and triangles make a more interesting and dynamic image.
What does this have to do with you? Try a contrapposto pose in your next family photography session. Have some fun with it at the beach, in the mountains, at your camp, on a riverbank or in your backyard. I double-dog dare you.
Chances are, you’ll find out what we’ve learned. Michelangelo and his Greek predecessors who started the whole contrapposto craze were on to something.
I’m a believer that looking at the world in general with an altered lens — including those you love and even yourself — is almost always good for the brain (and heart).
Jan Risher’s column, Long Story Short, appears Sundays. She would love to see your favorite contrapposto posed photographs. If you’re so inclined, send a single image to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows? We might stage our own contrapposto photo competition.