What is the Law of Proximity?
The Law of Proximity is a powerful Gestalt psychology principle that artists can use to create unity in their art. Sure, unity is great, but what if you could use it to create forced perspective and visual tension? Now that would be cool! It just so happens that we can use the Law of Proximity for all of these things.
We’ve learned in the other Gestalt theories, that the mind will always try to simplify visual stimuli. Typically it creates unity, even if unity was not the objective. When objects are in close proximity of each other, they are grouped within the mind. We see the whole, before the individual parts. Knowing how the mind utilizes the Law of Proximity, gives us the power to incorporate it when we want.
Knowing Gestalt psychology is like being the engineer of a world class automobile. The excited driver doesn’t need to know how it was masterfully crafted, but man does it make their bones tingle with freakin’ joy!
For instance, in the Gregory Crewdson image below, the Law of Proximity amplifies the somber mood he’s setting. The man and woman have tons of negative space between them (lacking close proximity), so Crewdson creates a story of separation. Almost like they are pondering divorce.
So, how do we change the story?
When we use the Law of Proximity and move the woman closer, they are united in a way that completely changes the story. It’s almost like they are sad about something that happened to both of them, and they have empathy for each other. All that’s missing is her hand on his shoulder.
Another great way the Law of Proximity can be used is for juxtapositions. This is an excellent technique for street photographers with a sense of humor.
In the image below we see a sign that reads, “movie prop.” Now, if we recompose our composition to include a woman laying on the beach, we are able to create a humorous story that didn’t exist in reality. How fun is that?!
So, what else can we do with the Law of Proximity?
As mentioned earlier, we can use the Law of Proximity to create illusions. In the image below, we can capture the photo when the surfer is in close proximity of the woman’s stomach. This is considered forced perspective, because the man looks like he’s standing on a giant woman. It’s an illusion…a trick.
Such a fun technique!
We can also create visual tension in our art by utilizing the Law of Proximity. In this next photo (and demonstrated in the video), I show how the original photo had the subjects further apart. I made them closer to each other to increase the visual tension…he’s almost able to reach her, but not quite. This is similar to Adam reaching for Jesus in the famous painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling (see Day 191).
Wanna learn more about how to control the way people see your photos or paintings? Consider grabbing the Gestalt Psychology video collection. You won’t find anything else like it in the world, and it will seriously make you see things differently…forever.
STATEMENTS ABOUT GESTALT PSYCHOLOGY PRINCIPLES
Here are some inspiring emails from artists wanting to advance to the master level!
Thank you so much, I can’t wait to get started! A couple of months ago I read an article by New York photographer Chris Knight (also boyfriend of fashion photographer and CreativeLive educator Lindsay Adler) which mentioned the Gestalt theory and triggered my curiosity. Through quite a lot of searching for more information I ended up on your site and to be honest, I’m probably more excited than on the day someone told me very kindly I needed to learn about lighting.
As a photographer I have always (until now) focused on technique, lighting, posing, expression, etc, etc, to improve my images, but always relied on “intuition” and the rule of thirds for composition. So I am very grateful for your information on the matter, especially as it seems to be overlooked by many of my colleagues.
Very best wishes,
Hi Tavis, I have been diving into your work religiously in my off time and I can already tell I’ve struck gold. What you have created is exactly what I was looking for which I couldn’t find elsewhere. I remember stumbling upon some gestalt info in the past but it was related to graphic design and I dismissed it because I couldn’t easily relate it to my own art, but you go through and show exactly how it relates to 2d art in a way that is easy to digest and apply, and the dynamic symmetry has been blowing my mind. It’s one of those moments where I can tell my art is going to take a quantum leap forward as long as I do everything I consciously can to master this methodology. I am truly thankful for your work and effort in creating this, my friend.
Thanks again Tavis!
I was able to download the rest of the Gestalt Video Collection! Watched them all already. Can’t wait to start applying them to my work!
Thank you once again, ?
What Does the Video Cover?
This third video covers the Law of Proximity, a technique used for mastering composition. With plenty of examples and an on-location photo session (photos below) we will demonstrate how to effectively use techniques such as unifying contrasting objects, juxtapositions, amusing illusions, forced perspective, and visual tension to create a masterpiece. In the Law of Proximity video we will also touch on techniques such as dynamic symmetry, gamut, arabesques, and Figure-Ground Relationship. These are all the same techniques used by master painters and they can be applied to your art, whether it’s photography, painting, or sculpting to clearly communicate to your viewer with power. This Law of Proximity video will bring you one step closer to surpassing your plateau and reaching the master level!
*Pre-Requisite – since Gamut greatly relates to the dynamic symmetry of root rectangles (see Day 14) it would be beneficial if you familiarized yourself with it a bit. Not necessary, because the techniques in the video still apply, but it would heighten your level of comprehension. Alternatively, I have several videos on YouTube that explain dynamic symmetry.
Preview Gestalt Psychology Video Collection
This is a mind-blowing time-lapse video, which shows just a fraction of the rich content within the Gestalt psychology video collection.
The best photographers learn from master painters.
The videos are concise, so you will get nothing but super juicy value for a total of an hour and a half. Saving you time, and giving you exactly what you need!
7 HD videos– Law of Continuity, Figure-Ground Relationship, Law of Proximity, Law of Similarity, Law of Pregnanz, Law of Symmetry, Law of Closure
Total Running Time: 1h 32m
HD Quality: MP4
Download Size: 895.3 MB total
Quick Links to In-Depth Descriptions
All seven Gestalt psychology videos have their own page…loaded with details.
Click on the links below to be magically transported to the secret knowledge you’ve been missing out on.