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“Depth of field” or “negative forms”: space/syntax from HDR digital photography to hypermedia navigation

Marie-Madeleine Martinet


L’article explore les notions touchant la perception du contraste champ / figure dans les arts. Partant de l’oire des mots “négatif” et “profondeur de champ” en photographie au XIXe siècle, il étudie des solutions comme les combinaisons du sujet et de l’arrière-plan à partir de photos sous-exposées et d’autres surexposées ; il place la question dans un contexte chronologique plus large d’interaction entre le premier plan et l’horizon, avec procédés de cadrage et de facture dans les paysages classiques, le rôle des ombres en peinture depuis Leonard de Vinci jusqu’aux théories des Lumières sur la perception, l’exploration des effets atmosphériques et de l’éclairage par les artistes et les savants victoriens allant des décors de théâtre aux expériences physiques, et il conclut sur les versions actuelles avec les effets de lumière ou de flou dans les programmes de modélisation 3D ou les échanges entre le premier plan et l’arrière-plan dans les médias interactifs.

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  • 1 See ARLI (Atelier de recherche sur le langage et sur l’image, Cachan: ENS, 2003) and Liliane Louvel (...)

1How have the digital arts contributed to the debate on the interplay between visual concepts and textual concepts? To investigate analogies between language and image, two approaches may be adopted : a study of discourse, tracing the history of concepts which can apply to both language and image, or a formal study of images discerning features which can be transferred to linguistic analysis.1 The common ground under examination here will be the procedures of emphasis : can we relate linguistic forms meant to throw into relief an element of the sentence, and the visual contrast of figure against ground—a feature linked to the relative “depth of field” and “focusing” chosen for an image? This is a formal question, which has an equivalent in language : the concept of “negative form” — the empty spaces in the image thus named because their lesser status is considered as a denial by comparison with the foregrounded object. The issue is part of the usual question “can pictures say no?” linguistically, it is thus equivalent to grammatical negation, which itself does not entirely suppress what it denies since its gives it a theoretical existence by the mere fact of mentioning it — see the rhetorical figure of praeteritio. It is thus related to the logical difference between “contraries” and “complementaries”, the field acting as a “complementary”. These notions in art criticism, as well as artistic practices, I shall argue, evolved in keeping with optical technologies and most recently with digital technologies.

The “Negative” In Discourse On Optical Technologies

2The word “negative” appeared in discourse on the visual arts first in a technological context, and it gradually evolved to comprehend gradients between the positive and negative extremes.

The Word “Negative”

  • 2 All English vocabulary examples in this chapter are from the OED online; quotations checked 30 June (...)

3In photography, the “negative” technique as we know it was invented by Fox Talbot in 1835 but the term itself was coined by his friend John Herschel (the son of the astronomer) five years later.2 The first negative — a view from the oriel window of Lacock Abbey, Fox Talbot’s home — may be seen now in the National Media Museum at Bradford.

1840    J. F. W. Herschel in Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 130 3   It may be allowed me to employ the terms positive and negative, to express respectively, pictures in which the lights and shades are as in nature, or as in the original model, and in which they are the opposite, i.e. light representing shade, and shade light.

4The word “negative” was soon used to refer to the inverted shapes produced by a moulding process, either natural (the glaciers, 1842), or, later, artistic (sculpture, 1939). Conversely, the photographic image applied to print type was used more than a hundred years later in linguistics:

1967 D. G. Hays Introd. Computational Linguistics iv. 67   Early photocomposition devices used photosensitive stock and stored negative images of characters.

5In addition to the inversion of black and white, one needs to take into account the discovery of after-images in the first half of the 19th century (images of complementary colour remaining in the eye after an object has been withdrawn). The word “negative” was used in the second half of the century for after-images of inverted colour, in keeping with current studies on contrasting colours 

1870, then 1885: As soon, however, as the [red] wafer is blown away, he will say he sees a green spot, its negative after-image Science 4 Dec. 505

  • 3 See the exhibition at Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 2011.

6Near the end of the 19th century, the positive/negative contrast was used in the decorative arts for motifs repeated alternately in dark on light and light on dark tones : the Louis Vuitton monogram based on a mediaeval pattern was described in such terms by its inventor , “en positif et en négatif” (1894). Indeed, it combines the two inverted versions and implied an exchange of field and figure between the two motifs as well as a positive/negative effect.3

From the mid 20th century onwards, psychological studies of perception developed the concept of “negative space” — the field as opposed to the figure on which attention is consciously focused — emphasizing its subconscious role. The “negative” was thus no longer an inverted image of the motif but the complementary space around it.

1949    A. Berkman Art & Space 175   Space may further be described as positive space (object), and negative space (the space intervening between objects, and the space which the object occupies).

It applied to the readers’ role filling in the literary texts with their own responses:

1988    19th Cent. Lit. 43 55   In the negative space between Captain Wentworth's behavior and Anne's interpretation of it we formulate meanings of our own.

7Concepts such as “negative shape” and “negative space” may now be found in the fields of perceptual analysis and art history, as a search in JStor will show.

Intermediary Categories

  • 4 All URLs were checked on 7 August 2013 and 1 November 2016.

8The negative/positive contrast in space may admit of intermediaries. Negative terms can apply to space and conversely terms representing space may be given a negative meaning. The 17th century -scape suffix has now become productive again, and it can be associated with shades of negation and also of modality. An early digital creation is SineScape by Csuri (1967​artdesign/​profile/​csuri/​artworks/​plot/​plot8.html)4, a landscape modified by a wave function which made it alternate between realistic view and mathematical interpretations, all being potential options.

9The -scape suffix is now sometimes combined with a term implying absence : English Heritage has coined the term “Pastscapes” on its website (​). This is not negation in the sense of non-existence but absence, an intermediary category. The advent of the digital medium has contributed to such developments. Being process-oriented at any moment of the performance, digital works of art have elements which are actually present and others which are potential or past. In the present example, this feature serves to substantiate our relation with historic landscapes.

  • 5 See Séverine Letalleur dissertation online, “Réflexion croisée sur la notion de focalisation en lan (...)

10Visual metaphors may imply contrast or gradation and this applies to the metaphors based on the perception of depth. The figure/ground relation may operate in depth since the figure is normally in the plane of focus, as opposed to the other planes in depth. But the relation may then be a continuous one of gradation from sharp to unsharp outlines rather than a contrast. This is the reverse of focalisation since depth of field implies that a deeper area than a simple plane is the object of attention. Focalisation is a widely employed metaphor nowadays in literature and in linguistics.5 In physico-theology, the idea of “focus” was used as an optical metaphor from the early 18th century:

1713    W. Derham iv. ii. 89   If the paperbein the Focus of the Glass, [the image will be] distinct.

and historically, “depth of field” was frequently used in a negative context as “lack of depth of field” which results in focalisation. It implies contrast between the figure and the rest of the image, with the necessity to position all the objects in the focal plane, the only plane with sharp outlines, rather than spacing them in depth.

1855    G. W. Wilson Pract. Guide Collodion Process Photogr. 29   From want of depth of field in the lenses, every part of the figure must be brought as nearly as possible on the same plane.

11See diagram at​depth-of-field-explained/​ and explanation at​2012/​05/​31/​3-ways-to-affect-depth-of-field-free-cheat-sheet/​

12In language, “focus” is the dominant metaphor—used in linguistics but also in sociology— whereas “depth of field” is used in order to be denied. In the arts, on the contrary, depth of field is dominant, as we shall now study.


13Investigating how the figure/ground relation operates in visual forms is part of the study of procedures of emphasis and definition in the visual field compared to rhetorical or grammatical emphasis. It will deny the dual emphasis/negation contrast and replace it with gradients of shades between extremes.

Figure and Ground

14To show the relation between figure and ground in images, we need to discuss the practice of “depth of field” settings in image-making techniques. In photography, this effect is produced either by pre-production settings or by post-production manipulation. Though in theories of perception, the field is an apparently subordinate element and in binary opposition with “figure”, “depth of field” in photography is the sharp area around the significant objects. It is defined by photographers in accordance with their choices of objects to be thrown into relief. It is in turn seen against a deliberately neglected (unfocused) background, adding an extra depth — a third intermediary area between object and distance.

15We may thus have two effects for one view, one with long depth of field which shows the foreground and background with equal sharpness; and one with “selective focus” throwing into relief one of the planes.

  • 6 You may see examples in my workshop at

16The relation between motif and ground may be associated with dark/light contrasts by means of the aperture/shutter speed coupling, which gives more or less importance to the dark or the bright area. If the aperture diminishes, the view becomes darker and underexposed (i.e the dark parts become an indistinct dark mass while the bright ones are well rendered). The focus is on the atmosphere, the ground. If the shutter speed diminishes, the photo is overexposed with predominating bright areas (i.e. the bright parts of the sky become a uniformly whitish area and the dark ones are clear enough to be well visibl). The focus is on the figures.6

17Though compositing (fusing two images) obviously allows for any kind of combination, one of the most popular options is a version of the field/figure relation: HDR (high dynamic range) photography, or postproduction compositing of two photos, one with exposure selected to capture the bright shades of colour for the sky (field) and the other for the landscape details in the darker colours (figure). The process of compositing these two photos actually reproduces the process of human sight: our eyes adapt to make out the outlines of objects in the dark, or half-close in order to see things in strong light without being dazzled; and in a contrasting view of darkish landscape and bright sky, our gaze imperceptibly fuses the various elements into a composite view. Perception is the first image manipulation, and photo compositing recreates true-to-life images.

18The issue was raised from the beginings of photography in the mid 19th century, and not, as is commonly believed, when digital programmes made photo manipulation accessible to a wider public. A well-known case in black-and-white 19th century analogue photography is that of La Vague (The Wave, 1857) by Gustave Le Gray7: Le Gray would take two photos, one with exposure appropriate for the sky and one with exposure appropriate for the seascape, and he combined the two negatives for printing. This procedure, which was actually frequent in the 19th century, was achieved either by cutting parts of the two negatives and recombining them, or by two successive printings, one for each part—a procedure practised by Silvy.8 Later, such a combination of sky and landscape was done in preproduction, by adding a ‘grad filter’ in front of the lens—with a gradient from grey at the top (meant to place a veil in front of the over bright sky) to transparency below so that the natural colours of the landscape would show.

19With digital photography, this is how we can create an HDR photo: we superimpose the two photos as layers, and add a layer mask on the top photo in selected areas which will make the area semi-transparent so that the underlying part of the lower photo reappears. Here the top photo is well exposed for the London street (Ridgmount Street) but too white for the sky, the lower photo is well exposed for the sky but too dark for the street; we make the sky of the top photo almost transparent (this is achieved by colouring in dark gray the layer mask placed on the top photo) so that the subtle sky of the lower photo reappears, though the rest of the lower photo remains invisible. The result is that the background is no longer a neutral element opposed to the main objects in a simple dual relation of affirmation/negation, it becomes one of the important elements of the image. Field and figure now both play a part in the general effect, the field becomes almost another figure, not a subordinate accompaniment.

The three photos : underexposed, overexposed, and the composited photo.

The three photos : underexposed, overexposed, and the composited photo.

20The demo showing the layers window in the middle (“calques”) with the thumbnail of the overexposed photo on top and the underexposed photo below; to the right of the top thumbnail, the white mask of the top photo with an area coloured in grey (the sky made transparent so as to reveal the sky of the lower photo), the corresponding area being selected in the photo to the left.

Colour Separation And The Arts

  • 9 See explanations in the exhibition in HMS Belfast, London.

21Experiments have been made over the centuries to separate images into constituent elements; John Herschel, previously mentioned as the originator of the word “negative”, invented the cyanotype—a monochrome image in shades of blue—see description of the process on​collections/​explore/​glossary-of-art-terms1/​cyanotype.php; numerous late 19th century examples may be seen in Linley Sambourne’s house​subsites/​museums/​18staffordterrace1.aspx. It was first used for botanic plates (see​portraits/​reperes/​index3.htm) by Anna Atkins (whose husband was a friend of Talbot) in the 1840s; botanic plates were also one of the topics on which Fox Talbot experimented photographic processes: they are a subject in which the main motif has to be thrown into relief against the background. This technique was later transferred to architects’ “blueprints”9: this is why interpretations of architectural outlines were for a long time in blue. The term “blueprint” for “outline” has survived, and, because of its earlier architectural use, it now refers to a project for the future; techniques which emphasize significant features of an image againt a background are process-oriented and have a modality turned towards the future.

22With digital images, the different types of views offered by modelling software, such as solid and wireframe, and the option to separate the image into layers for colours and to show them in negative, may be an inspiration and a mode of composition for artists; the digital images thus obtained may be used to produce stencils used for painting, the stencil technique itself being based on the idea of negative forms (the painter works on the empty parts). This type of artistic practice was demonstrated at the National Gallery in January 2011 by Ben Johnson for his view of London from Trafalgar Square, based on a Canaletto composition,10 the compositional lines themselves acting as a negative: present day image analysis is strongly based on the negative/positive inversion and separation.

Depth And Emphasis

23The question also arises in the study of depth cues, now continued in 3D. Is defining an object as figure tantamount to denying its field? This is an important question in simulation issues.

24Visual effects in painting act, not in themselves, but by interaction with the surrounding parts of the painting. In painting, artists have for centuries practised visual effects based on the uncertainty as to the limits between the objects acting as figure and those acting as field: is a framing tree in classical landscapes (such as Wilson’s Holt Bridge on the River Dee, c.1760,​paintings/​richard-wilson-holt-bridge-on-the-river-dee ) part of the field, or is it a figure? It is a figure contributing to the construction of the field; this ambiguity may be due to the texture, or to its relation to the frame which may cut it.

25To suggest the depth of textures, a well-known pictorial process is that of painting with a full brush, frequently used to reproduce reflective objects such as metal, or fabric, and give them depth—see the portrait of Lady Howe by Gainsborough (c.1760, the Iveagh Bequest at Kenwood)​wm/​paint/​auth/​gainsborough/​howe.jpg. It is obviously not a form of basic illusionistic representation, where the image would be practically identical in texture with the object represented. There is first an interplay within the double substance itself, the pigment on the canvas having its granulation supported by the rough canvas; and it is the pigment, not the canvas, which represents fabric: canvas does not represent fabric though it is the closest substance, but it serves as an accompaniment to the pigment which represents (or rather evokes) it. Such effects developed at the moment when canvas was replacing wood as a background, as the painters showed how this new supporting material, by its hollows between the threads, brought a new sense of depth (see Didi-Huberman). Besides, the impasto area is not significant in itself, it produces its effect by contrast with the neighbouring areas of the painting in high finish; the powerful effect is due to the simultaneous presence of two types of brushstrokes. The comparison is not a naive two-term one (the pigment is like the fabric represented), but a four-term proportion—the relation between the two parts of the painting (the impasto one and the one with high finish) suggests the differences between two substances in reality, fabric and the other substances, one acting as main motif and the other as surrounding areas intermediaries with the background. If a two-term comparison, it would be one bearing on the differences: the gap between the brushstroke styles is similar to the contrast between the substances. A case in point is Las Hilanderas (La Fábula de Aracne, c.1657, Prado) by Velázquez, painted at a moment when canvas was replacing wood as a support­—an experiment with a new medium. Objects thus become, not part of space, but creators of space around them, and the observer’s role is to construct the image space actively, which is done by observing the contrasting brushstroke gradations from motif to ground.

26If such depth cues are to be found in the object of sight—the painting—, the perception of depth also depends on the subjective process of vision, frequently modelled with the help of optical tools. The process of binocular vision has been studied for more than three centuries as a means of distinguishing objects: Father Chérubin d’Orléans worked on a binocular optical apparatus around 1675 (see​galileopalazzostrozzi/​object/​CherubinDOrleansBinocularTelescope.html and Schaer 315); again it denies the simple opposition of objects and background, since it works by superimposing two such slightly different views. Long before, the link between binocular vision and the affirmation/negation process appears in the story of the Cyclops and Ulysses: the Cyclops, having only one eye, is unable to distinguish between fine shades of negation, between the affirmation of a negative being (my name is No-one) and the absence of any being (there is no one): there is not one simple yes/no contrast, but two processes, one concerning figures (someone called No-one) and one concerning the surrounding space (empty of all beings); this gives depth.

27Photography has emphasized the difference between 2D and 3D perception as regards the role of overlapping forms, one of the constituents in the perception of depth: in real perception, objects placed behind a person are readily identified as different and placed far beyond the person, whereas on a photo they seem to grow out of the person’s head; a photographer has to plan for a clear distinction between the foreground figure and a fairly neutral uncluttered field: visual negation has to be emphasized.

28In painting, tricks of the trade have been used to mark the limit between field and figure, such as shadows emphasizing outlines—their role in perception being a debated topic (Baxandall). They can be seen as part of the figure since they are an image of it, but they are projected onto the field and they are part of it—they allow it to show through, and their blurred outlines prevent them from being a separately defined object. Digital image programmes nowadays allow us to select the blur of shaded parts (a legacy from Leonardo), and their colour as well as their degree of transparency (a legacy from the Impressionists).

29Shadows may take an existence of their own in literature as well, as the phrase “houseless shadow” in Dickens’s “Night Walks” (The Uncommercial Traveller, 1860) shows; it is an inspiration for new media artists since it is the source of the film by William Raban shown at the Museum of London for the Dickens exhibition of 2012.

30Physicists have long studied shadows; Rumford built an apparatus for measuring the intensity of shadows, the “shadow photometer” (1794), now shown at the Royal Institution.

  • 11 This was a time when experiments were made in the transformation of 2D into 3D, such as photosculpt (...)

31Shadows also contributed to the study of motion and its representation; Sickert explains how Degas studied the arabesque movements of a ballerina by rotating a candle around a statuette to project successive shadows on the opposite wall; shadows, though flat, are a step towards three-dimensional representation, and the sudy of movement: an intermediary between figure and ground.11 One option for the separation of field and figure is offered by motion: according to studies in the cognitive sciences, when a group of forms moves together against other forms, they are identified as a single object and the other forms as field (see Andler).

  • 12 See the work by Roberto Casati on mereology (holes).

32The field, though subordinate, is influential, and the atmosphere is in turn influenced by invisible elements.12 Tyndall’s experiment (1859, Royal Institution) demonstrated why the sky is blue; he projected white light through a tube filled with smoke particles, and viewed sideways the particles would spread blue light since blue light is made of short waves which are more easily dispersed by the particles; viewed from the other end, the red sunset colour would appear since they are long waves, transmitted rather than dispersed. “Polarising filters” in photography aim at suppressing the dispersion of light due to particles, which conversely shows their importance.

33Lighting as a means of emphasizing an object also adds this intermediary area around the object and before the background, a practice in the theatre which, though familiar to us, arose only in the 1840s with the advent of controllable lighting. In All the Year Round, a 1863 performance at the Lyceum was thus described  “a kind of half-light and the greater blaze concentrated on the faces” (Dickens exhibition at the Museum of London, 2012)—the words “half-light” and the comparative “greater” showing the gradation effect. The Victoria and Albert Museum now has miniature models of stage sets where the visitor can experiment with several types of lighting, some illuminating the whole stage and others throwing a spotlight on one of the actors.

34If, logically and consciously, the field is denied in comparison with the figure, in perception the field is necessary to interpret the figure, as well as the intermediary zones, which, even when not consciously noticed, help our gaze to identify shapes. The equivalent in logic is again that contradictories (complementary sets—the field, the atmosphere) have to be distinguished from contraries, or other motifs, and interplay with them.

35Borderlines between figure and field need to be elusive so as to make objects well defined, paradoxically. Blurred outlines are necessary to make a composite photo acceptable. When modelling objects and buildings, their edges should never be left entirely sharp, but slightly chamfered or bevelled so that they look natural; and objects should be slightly reflective: the uncertain borderlines between objects and their environment help towards identification. Transitions and double functions take on the leading role.

Two models of a cube: the one to the right has unrealistic sharp edges and no reflection; bevelling and reflection have been added to the one on the left.

Two models of a cube: the one to the right has unrealistic sharp edges and no reflection; bevelling and reflection have been added to the one on the left.

36In language, the analogy is profile/base (Taylor 192-198): the implied context; i.e. an island is opposed to the sea, however it implies it. This concerns the meaning of words, not syntax, visual effects implying context being more akin to superimpositions of meanings, the “intension” of concepts within words than to syntactic contrasts and negations.


37In town design and architecture, the notion of field as urban context also intervenes. Interior and exterior interplay, and the urban context frequently governs the shape of buildings. Thus the unusual shape of All Souls Church in London, with its nave preceded by a rotunda topped by a conic spire, owes the circular form of the entrance to the curve imposed on Regent Street by the layout of the neighbouring property belonging to a man named Langham (who left his name to the place); the design of the place thus created an extra intermediary part—the rotunda—between the main part of the church (the nave) and the street, with the added originality of the classical horizontal rotunda topped by a spire to add a vertical focus. Such constraints produced Nash’s distinctive style with its curved arteries, which in turn determined the shape of the buildings within the arteries with original combinations of motifs, the motif being determined by the field.

  • 13 See the 2011 exhibition on Vorticism at Tate Britain.

38The ground/figure relation became a pathway towards abstraction, since it can operate in abstract as well as figurative art (Bell 217), and in the early 20th century it became a mainstay of Vorticism. It was defined in Blast13 as the exchange of land for ocean—the object exchanged for its context:

Bless seafarers. They exchange not one land for another, but one element for another. The more against the Less Abstract. Bless the vast planetary abstraction of the Ocean. June 1914

39Technical experiments were invented to correspond to the new aesthetics: multiple exposure photography was called “cubist”—meant to give a more complete view of reality, but it became a means of abstraction with the vortoscope, a kaleidoscopic instrument attached to the front of the camera, which, when photographing pieces of wood or glass on a glass table, produced photos resembling fractured Vorticist motifs (Tate Gallery exhibition on Vorticism, 2011—​results.asp?image=10453041&itemw=4&itemf=0002&itemstep=1&itemx=1). Such procedures abolish the motif/field distinction, and they were explicitly commented upon as a refusal of discourse, in a negative sentence:

Think of the joy of doing something which it would be impossible to classify, or to tell which was the top or which was the bottom (1916)

Digital images as process

  • 14 On issues of context/intersection and sequential/non-sequential options, see Kim Marriott and Bernd (...)

40In the digital arts, logical operations of negation may be applied to space and volumes.14 In a Boolean subtraction, an empty part in a volume is like the subtraction of a positive volume. A more advanced effect is that of the intersection—for instance to create a parabola, you create a cone and a plane surface positioned parallel, and what remains is actually the thin intersecting part—the main parts disappearing.

41The Venn diagrams also embody logical “not” (field) different from contrary (another subset). The logic of digital space includes motion and modality: electric circuits embody AND and OR options — the potential, as shown by Shannon.

42Nowadays, the importance of the relation between the potential and the actual is shown in the dual options of the mouse: the right click offers possible options, the left click makes one of them actual.

43Hypermedia programming, which governs the actions of objects on a screen, rests on conditional scripts: if…, then: if the user performs a certain action (i.e. clicks on a button), then he produces a given result. The “if” is usually followed by else… (if the user does not choose the aforementioned action), all the other actions being implied in it: it acts as the complement, therefore the background. In some programmes, the condition is negative: the programme has to check that a given condition is not fulfilled—the background (the negation) becomes the chosen figure.The other options remain in the background, but if chosen they are foregrounded. It is the narrative sequence which makes for the interplay of background and foreground in a hypothetical world. If there is a list of possible actions, each with its own consequence, a synthetic syntax may be employed beginning with “case” followed by a table-like list of actions and results: all of them are potential figures.

44An example of an “if” script, instructing the programme to display the successive positionings of a vehicle on a sloping bridge in accordance with the movements of the user’s mouse dragging the vehicle.

45The role of the user in hypermedia is thus emphasized: it is the user’s choices that determine the relations between the elements. There may be an extra issue: in some multimedia simulations, the users may choose to act as first or third person, introducing a gap between their role as actors and as (partial) organisers of the virtual space, with the option of an ‘epistemic void’ because of the limited point of view of the character. The “emergence” effect, the appearance of complexity in the whole above parts, is thus dynamic, narrative, performative (Paul), because the intermediary zones are the most important element: the affirmation/negation contrast is replaced in the visual world by infinite gradients.

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Andler, Daniel, dir. Introduction aux sciences cognitives. Paris : Gallimard, 1992.

Baxandall, Michael. Shadows and Enlightenment. New Haven: Yale UP, 1995.

Bell, Julian. What is Painting? Representation and Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1999.

Didi-Huberman, Georges. Devant l’Image. Paris : Minuit, 1990 ; Trans. Fabric of Vision. London: National Gallery, 2002.

Louvel, Liliane. Le Tiers pictural: pour une critique intermédiale. Rennes: PUR, 2010.

Paul, Christiane. Digital Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003, 2008.

Schaer, Roland, dir. Tous les Savoirs du monde : encyclopédies et bibliothèques, de Sumer au XXIe siècle. Paris : BNF, 1996.

Taylor, John R. Cognitive Grammar. Oxford: OUP, 2002.

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1 See ARLI (Atelier de recherche sur le langage et sur l’image, Cachan: ENS, 2003) and Liliane Louvel, Le Tiers pictural: pour une critique intermédiale.

2 All English vocabulary examples in this chapter are from the OED online; quotations checked 30 June 2016.

3 See the exhibition at Musée Carnavalet, Paris, 2011.

4 All URLs were checked on 7 August 2013 and 1 November 2016.

5 See Séverine Letalleur dissertation online, “Réflexion croisée sur la notion de focalisation en langue et dans les théories des représentations” (MM Martinet, supervisor, 2006).

6 You may see examples in my workshop at


It was the subject of an exhibition at the Museum of Le Havre in 2004.

8 See the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery 2010.

9 See explanations in the exhibition in HMS Belfast, London.


11 This was a time when experiments were made in the transformation of 2D into 3D, such as photosculpture: an apparatus with levers producing a sculpture out of photos of a person from several angles (as shown in the Degas exhibition at the Royal Academy, 2011).

12 See the work by Roberto Casati on mereology (holes).

13 See the 2011 exhibition on Vorticism at Tate Britain.

14 On issues of context/intersection and sequential/non-sequential options, see Kim Marriott and Bernd Meyer, eds. Visual Language Theory (New York: Springer, 1998).

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Table des illustrations

Titre The three photos : underexposed, overexposed, and the composited photo.
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Titre Two models of a cube: the one to the right has unrealistic sharp edges and no reflection; bevelling and reflection have been added to the one on the left.
Fichier image/jpeg, 16k
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Fichier image/jpeg, 40k
Fichier image/jpeg, 76k
Fichier image/jpeg, 254k
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Marie-Madeleine Martinet, « “Depth of field” or “negative forms”: space/syntax from HDR digital photography to hypermedia navigation », Sillages critiques [En ligne], 21 | 2016, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2016, consulté le 23 juillet 2017. URL :

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Marie-Madeleine Martinet

Université Paris-Sorbonne, CSTI (Cultures, Sociétés et Technologies de l’Information) Marie-Madeleine Martinet, formerly Director of the Research Centre “Cultures, Sociétés et Technologies de l’Information” CSTI (HDEA, Paris-Sorbonne/ Sorbonne Universités), works on visual culture and conducts digital image workshops. Among her works are a study on the poetics of landscape in travel literature Le Voyage d’Italie dans les littératures européennes (1996), the webpages on townscapes in painting for the website Georgian Cities (2014), and articles on hypermedia.
Marie-Madeleine Martinet, directrice honoraire de l’équipe de recherche « Cultures, Sociétés et Technologies de l’Information » CSTI (HDEA, Paris-Sorbonne/ Sorbonne Universités), écrit sur l’analyse d’image et dirige des séminaires d’image numérique. Parmi ses travaux, une étude sur la poétique du paysage dans la littérature de voyage Le Voyage d’Italie dans les littératures européennes (1996), les pages sur les vues urbaines en peinture dans le site sur les villes du XVIIIe siècle Georgian Cities (2014), et des travaux sur l’hypermédia.

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Sillages critiques est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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