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To accompany this post, I’ve just uploaded a group of square images on my website in the galleries The Sound of Moving Water and Appalachia’s Endangered Headwaters. Three of those images are included here.

The square format is a photography standard made ubiquitous by the zillions of 620 format cameras that were churned out through the middle of the 20th century; all the Brownie box camera and assorted other configurations that every family seemed to have stashed away in a drawer for special occasions. Add to this the 6×6 cameras like Rolleiflex , Hasselblad, and countless knock-offs and Soviet-Bloc copies and it’s apparent that up until 35mm really took over in the 1970s, people from all walks of life saw photographs as square.

Owsley Fork #4 (©2010 by Richard X. Moore)

Even though I started on a series of box cameras myself, I never quite warmed up to the square and migrated quickly to the rectangular 35 and never much though square for a very long time. I did attempt a 6×6 revival by buying an ancient Kowa years ago, but no matter how I tried the uniformity of the format caused some kind of compositional meltdown and I never used it effectively. I finally sold it, for a very good price, to a co-worker.

This has all changed, but I can’t say why, or even when. It just somehow occurred to me to crop some images square awhile back. Some kind of random impulse, I suppose, because I don’t recall every staying to myself “Gee, I bet this would look good square.” It just happened. My brain simply decided to begin processing visual images contained within a square frame.

It’s turned out to be a good thing, because it’s changed the way I look at subjects when I’m photographing. I often have specific crops in mind when I compose an image, with the equilateral one  being among my frequent choices.

Unnamed Stream #15 (©2009 by Richard X. Moore)

While I haven’t exactly fallen in love with the square format, it’s opened my eyes to new ways of taking in the world around me. I let the image create itself based on what I see before me without trying to fit it into a preconceived orientational framework. The bonus is that some of my images look really stunning in the square and a few I can’t imagine any other way.

I used to believe that rectangular formatting was clearly the way, or at least my way. Then I read a quote from Chinese Philosopher Chuang-tzu: “When the way is made clear, it is not the way.”

I agree.

Anglin Creek #4 (©2011 by Richard X. Moore)

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