(mostly) daily photoblog

This old house

is old and not very symmetrical.

I used to teach a course called Theory of Knowledge.  During this course, students have to look at the hardest thing to see – things they’ve taken for granted.  The obvious things in front of their faces.  One of my favorite parts of the course was esthetics.  There was little more entertaining than questioning the ideas of beauty, but also the widely held, completely non-critical idioms of our culture.  Let’s try, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

In the case of the photo above, the most beautiful aspects are the fact that the hedge is in line with the bottom line of the porch, right below the bannister.  I also like the matching windows on either side of the middle of the house, both upper and lower levels.

What takes away from this house’s beauty is the fact that the front door and the upper porch door are offset from center.  Symmetry makes something beautiful.  The other thing that really bothers me is that the lines of the house are shifting, probably due to the age of the house.  I struggled to straighten the photo – played with cropping the photo – but realized, after a couple of minutes, that the lines of the house are not straight.  The upper porch roofline is sagging and kept throwing off my eye.

Don’t get me wrong – I like the tension that creates.  I also love old things and the shifting and off-center doors are a sign of the age of the house.  Age can be beautiful.  I do, however, think that there are certain rules about beauty, certain criteria to what is beautiful.  Symmetry is one.

What are your criteria?  And don’t be all politically correct.  Be truthful.

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3 responses

  1. Reblogged this on Lindsay StClair Photography .

    January 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm

  2. I’m not sure I agree that symmetry is necessary for beauty, at least not for me. That being said, the doors in this do upset my eye. Everything else is so precise, and then those doors. 🙂 It just looks wrong to me. But I love the image. I like these old houses. 🙂

    January 10, 2012 at 1:02 pm

  3. I like the geometry of the roof lines. That stands out to me as a thing of beauty more than the hedge — which I almost didn’t even notice at first glance. The off-center doors are jarring. One of the ways that I appreciate beauty is finding the unexpected in the everyday, the close inspection that reveals something that I wouldn’t notice with just a glance. As I’m writing this, it occurs to me that those discoveries are so often of things symetrical — like looking at how a tree branches (DaVinci cited the mathematical equation, and recently engineers have determined this is what keeps trees upright in storms), or the stamens of a flower, shells on a beach. Even outside the natural world, we mimic this in art & architecture — even when the rules of symmetry are broken intentionally.

    As for beauty in the eye of the beholder, I believe that, but only in this way: beauty is there for all the see, but it is only when the beholder truly looks that it beauty can be recognized. As Confucius said: Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. There are differing standards of beauty but when people say “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” they are being dismissive of one’s perspective, or defensive that they can’t behold that beauty. I hear this phrase most often when people talk (usually dismissively) about contemporary art, confusing art with beauty. “Art is everywhere, but not in everything” is NOT the same things as “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”.

    Thanks for giving me something provocative to ponder as I sip my morning coffee! And some great photographs too! I’ll likely be thinking about this idea of esthetics throughout today as I continue working on a photo project I’m doing on interesting — beautiful — things found at the shore. I’m looking to make something both beautiful (natural beauty) AND artful (making a statement about how we interact with nature, especially with the “collecting” of shells — which are, after all, the bones of dead animals).

    January 14, 2012 at 5:54 am