Our club evening of 6th April was all about triptychs. We had several members contribute to the evening, by both providing and/or demonstrating how to create these eye-catching images as well as discussions on what type of image(s) work best and what to think about when looking to create a triptych.
Philip R got us underway with a quite fascinating look into the origins and history of the triptych. He has kindly shared much of the information here:
The word ‘Triptych’ comes from Ancient Greek and simply means ‘consisting of 3 layers, threefold’. Triptychs first became popular in religious art and were often displayed prominently on altars. The side panels would be hinged, so that they could be folded back on special occasions to reveal the whole triptych. Some triptychs were smaller and intended for personal devotional use at home. The fact that there were 3 panels echoed the Holy Trinity (Father, Son & Holy Spirit).
Annunciation Triptych (Merode Altarpiece) ca. 1427–32, Workshop of Robert Campin, Netherlandish, The Met Museum, Public Domain
One famous triptych masterpiece is ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ by Bosch, Hieronymus (1490-1500, Museo del Prado), seen above. The rather plain looking globe that covers the “doors” of the item opens to reveal an absolutely stunning set of images that one can look at for hours and still find new things. There’s an excellent online interactive website devoted to this triptych: https://archief.ntr.nl/tuinderlusten/en.html
In more modern times, triptychs have been used by artists such as Claude Monet and Francis Bacon.
Teresa Gregorio, Information Officer at the McMaster Museum of Art (Hamilton, Ontario) has recorded a short video relating to Pieter Coecke van Aelst’s 16th century altarpiece with a look at the form and function of a triptych: https://youtu.be/aLwZ0fbSAjU
Onto the photographic side and we opened with Alfred sharing two of his triptychs. He told us he had a triptych in mind when taking the first image, from the National Rail Museum in York.
This is a set of three different images combined but all of them are clearly on the same theme and have the same colour palette. These are just two of the features one needs to consider when thinking of what images to combine.
Here again, Alfred saw the potential of a triptych when looking at the couples seated in the garden at Chartwell. The same chairs but slightly differing backgrounds add to the theme and the story.
Dave S also shared many of his triptych creations with us, as well as demonstrating his method of how to make them using Photoshop 7.
Both the above again shows us different but similar images being used to create the final set. The flowers are not only the same theme but the layout works too, with the outer images looking in towards the centre. The cat gives us three views using the lighting to great effect. One more of Dave’s is familiar to club members and has done well in competition.
A key item from Dave is that the centre image is the one to hold the most power. That is clearly the case above with the swirl getting your attention and the colours on each side doing a great job in supporting it. Note that these do not line up as three images but the curves do!
Alfred gave us another great triptych that tells a story across its images.
Here, Alfred shows a sequence of one event spread over the three images. Variations of this are also great for trtiptychs.
My own examples vary and a few were shown on Wednesday. Like Alfred’s ones, I had images of the same thing but each was slightly different.
The one obvious issue with the set is the size of the policemen in the left-hand image. I had to squeeze this image to get the rails to line up across all three and the result is not quite right – the horizon is not lined up as well!
On from an example of a good idea that was not well executed, the one thing all the images above have in common is that they are all three separate images put together. Another of mine took that idea but these three images were of three different parts of the same thing.
When I took these, I had a triptych in my mind and so I deliberately photographed the boats in three parts and then put the sequence together.
And of course, there is always the triptych of one image, cut into three. These are probably best with a panoramic style photograph and an example I showed on the night is below:
Here we have one image from Venice and three different types of triptych. With one image, the style of the finished work can alter and give many options; for example, background colour, the spacing between the three parts and the use of key lines.
Finally, it is not always the case that each part of the triptych is the same size. As Dave S said, the centre can often be the key part so this can be made more obvious with that part being visibly dominant, such as this one:
Much of the discussion on Wednesday was about when you know you can create a triptych. I recall Alfred said many of his were deliberately taken to go together. My boat was as well. Dave S created his for past competitions and mine are a variation – the policemen and the windmill ones were thought of after I took them. Venice was one made for the night as it looks like an obvious image to use for this.
There are many YouTube videos that show “How to” create one and thanks to Chris R who demonstrated a very straightforward method in Lightroom for us. Hopefully, he can add that link from YouTube below.
So there we are. A journey through triptychs, from Philip giving us great historical context through to modern graphic colours and shapes. I hope all who joined us now feel able to produce their own.