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PORTRAIT OF A NATURAL BLOND

Digressing from the usual fare of images I’ve been posting at TrekEarth lately, I am submitting the portrait of the miniature beauty with natural blond hair. For those who are especially interested in shooting portraits — of adults or children — I would like to present a pair of discoveries that were made within the last ten years. The discoveries — principles — pertain to painted portraits, but they also apply to photographic portraits.

THE CENTERLINE PRINCIPLE

First, discovered by Christopher Tyler, English born psychologist and art lover practicing in San Francisco, California, in most single-subject portraits created by the masters — including Leonardo’s “Mona Lisa” and the “Lady with an Ermine;” Rembrandt’s psychologically charged portraits; and even Picasso’s portraits such as the “Dora Maar” — the vertical centerline passes through one eye of the subject. This is a principle that was never taught in art schools, but the most talented painters seem to have focused on one eye of their subject. Dr. Tyler’s discovery was important enough to make the front page of the New York Times in 1998.

PRINCIPLE OF THE LEFT CHEEK VS THE RIGHT CHEEK

Second, it has been known for a century that there is a greater preponderance of subjects showing their left-cheeks in distinction to their right cheeks. But the tantalizing question has always been, “Is it the artist deciding which way the subject should face, or is it the subject of the portrait deciding?” This question was satisfactorily answered in 1999 by the young Australian professor of psychology, Mike Nicholl, and his discover also made the New York Times. Professor Nicholl addressing a large group of students in an auditorium, informed them that their portraits were going to be produced. Then he separated the group into two equal halves, where they could not hear further directions given to the other group. To the first group he posited, “Your portrait is going to be produced, framed and hung on the walls of a loved-one — a parent, a boy or girl friend.” Those who put their left cheeks out prominently significantly outnumbered those putting their right cheeks out. The he told the second group that their portraits were going to hang next to that of Albert Einstein. This time, it was the right cheeks that were favored overwhelmingly.

Dr. Nicholl and his associates gave a simple but compelling explanation. The right brain is the hemisphere where we emote. And if we want to be endearing, we put out our left cheeks, controlled by the right brain. We do mathematics in the inferior parietal lobe on the left hemisphere of the brain, just above the ear. That hemisphere controls the right cheek. Accordingly, if we want to appear especially intelligent, we reflexively turn our right cheeks. Moreover, males and females showed the same preferences.

In February of 2000 I participated in an international conference in Seoul, Korea, on “Symmetry in Its Various Aspects: Search for Order in the Universe.” As the organizing chairman, I invited both Dr. Tyler and Dr. Nicholl to the conference, along with scholars representing the fields of mathematics, physics, chemistry, the life and social sciences, as well as art and music. The Principles of the Centerline and the Left-Cheek vs. Right Cheek were expounded beautifully by the aforementioned psychologists. In 2004 in my book, ‘Math and the Mona Lisa,’ I wrote a chapter with the title, “The Eye of the Beheld, The Eye of the Beholder,” explaining their respective findings.

The little natural beauty in this photo, 4-5 years old cannot be anything but endearing. She was not posing! I did, however, make sure to photograph and crop her portrait with her right eye along the vertical bisector. This portrait is dedicated to Veronica Gafton (veve) who has produced a number of memorable portraits of children, including this One. (Veronica has intuitively shot that photo according to the center-line principle, which is the way artists function).

Nikon-D70 with tripod, 18-70 mm, ISO 200, Nikkor lens, no filter. No post-process whatsoever.

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