Photographer Uses the Golden Ratio to Compose Cinematic Images Full of Drama


As an art student, Jon Sparkman was introduced to the Rule of Thirds, which are guidelines for how to compose an image. Essentially, the picture is divided into a grid, and the intersecting points are where the impactful parts of the picture should take place. Sparkman, however, makes use of its “superior, wiser, and elusive brother,” the Golden Ratio (aka the Fibonacci Spiral) to construct his compositions.

The UK-based photographer demonstrates how the Golden Ratio creates a dynamic image that's less static and more engaging than the Rule of Thirds. Its sweeping curve and tight coil is “like a giant subliminal road sign pointing the eyes towards where you want them to go.” To prove his theory, Sparkman has placed the curve over several of his photographs. By doing so, he showcases areas of drama and movement. Even though these aren't action-packed shots, the clever arrangement of the characters and environment makes us feel like we’ve stepped into dramatic and/or emotional moment from a play or film.




Armed with the knowledge of the Golden Ratio, Sparkman uses it to inform series like Through a Door. His compelling and voyeuristic project is much different than the fashion photography that he was convinced he’d pursue. While in school, however, he heard some hard truths. “I wasn’t interested in showing off the clothes,” he tell us in an email. “I was interested in telling stories, moving people and annoying others.”

After studying classical art lighting and working with models and actors, a theme began to emerge. Sparkman wanted his “pictures full of tension and strife.” This desire is less about showcasing the adversities of others and more of a poignant look at how we tackle (or ignore) our own issues. Talking specifically about British culture, he explains, “We’re not fond of confronting our dilemmas or problems, we usually just look the other way and hope it goes away,” he says. “It’s always fascinated me how odd a trait that is for the entire country to share, so I based my stories around them.”

Through a Door features carefully-constructed narratives of individuals as they deal with the minutiae of everyday life. Primarily focused on relationships, none of the characters interact with each other, and they appear ambivalent to their surroundings. To Sparkman, this is the opposite of “outwardly optimistic expression,” making each image a break in a “stoic facade” that challenges us to look at both these people as well as ourselves.








Jon Sparkman: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Jon Sparkman.

Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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