The Righteous Brothers Jamel Shabazz (1980) | Brooklyn, New York

VIII. Notes From My Mind’s Eye

Principles Of Art & Design : Unity & Variety


A Tree Is Known By Its Fruit — Zulu Proverb

Unity & Variety | Complementary Relationship

Everything in a composition has a logical complementary relationship. To create a relationship, the weight of a whole must be distributed equally in number, amount and lightness or darkness of a color. Only then will the structural elements be in agreement and have consistent progression. Contrasting elements that do not have any relation creates variety or changes within the monotonous repetition of unity. Creating this sort of tension give us places of interest to rest our eyes, which is needed in creating dynamic compositional movement


Honor And Dignity Jamel Shabazz | New York City

Jamel Shabazz | 1960 — present

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Jamel Shabazz has spent more than a decade documenting Black culture and social conditions for the purposes of preserving experiences. In a way, his work inserts blackness into the history of the world by candidly capturing unity and variety within the natural city landscape. Shabazz has played, and continues to play, an important role in manipulating the norm within history. It is his communicative interjection, placing everyday life on display, that humanizes the bodies of black and brown people. Unlike the predatory gaze of white supremacy, we are facilitated through city culture with Shabazz’s familiar and loving eyes.

My Creative Energy Is In Constant Motion And The Light That Guides Me Seems To Always Be Illuminated — Jamel Shabazz

The Righteous Brothers & Honor And Dignity

The first images we take a look at, The Righteous Brothers and Honor And Dignity, employ subtle variety that emphasize Shabazz’s interactions with the subjects. A subway and brick serve as the backdrop to the meticulous placement of people truly demonstrating the relational experience within the compositions. The Righteous Brothers, Unified positioning of the men piercing into the camera as they stand in the foreground and varied positioning of the man observing the two men as he sits. Honor And Dignity, Unified implied lines and varied colors. The men stand in a line that centers the visual interest at the white colored kufi and tunic. There is where we notice the baby being held, who has both green and white, seemingly making the entire composition cohesive.


Diversity Jamel Shabazz (1997) | New York City

The Ranks Jamel Shabazz (1997) | Chicago, Illinois

Hot Fun In The Summertime Jamel Shabazz (1980) | Brooklyn, New York

Diversity & The Ranks & Hot Fun In The Summertime

Using structural elements we are able to easily identify the loose unity and the variety within the Diversity, The Ranks, and Hot Fun In The Summertime compositions. Similar to The Righteous Brothers and Honor And Dignity, variety is not separated completely from the unity but instead works in tandem with unity to complement. For this reason we see cohesion. Diversity, Unified implied lines across the telephone booths. Varied colors and body direction. The Ranks, Unified implied lines and varied colors. Hot Fun In The Summertime, Unified vertical lines and diagonal line inserting variety. As you can see, these ordinary displays of culture are elevated with attention grabbing variety. Keeping us intrigued, Shabazz exalts the experiences we bare witness to.


Sights In The City Jamel Shabazz (1980) | New York City

Sights In The City

Unlike the previous images we took a look at, Sights In The City, makes use of space to emphasis unity and variety. Four women are unified by their outfit similarities. Vibrant colors and feather like head garments. Variety is the embodiment of the man who is framed by the door shape. Likewise the colors that he wears are muted and pale in tone. The group of women are in relationship which contrasts the observer who adds visual interest within the composition. Potentially alluding to the experience of girl’s festivities, we can tell that there are people from different countries that participant and there are people who close down their stores in order to be observers. All of which are the embodiment of a cultural experience.


Unity & Variety | Storytelling

Working in tandem, variety is the spark within a unified composition that creates compelling visual interest. When balanced, unity & variety creates dynamic compositions that easily organizes information for visual storytelling. As in the works of Jamel Shabazz, it is the movement of our eyes from harmony to disharmony that conveys the story within a composition. It is like the naturally balanced eb and flows of an ocean always telling stories as whole with varied points of interest.

Until Next Time,

Be A Storyteller, Share Experiences, & Challenge Norms | Shoot With Intention

In The Comment Section Below | How do you interpret Unity & Variety within Jamel Shabazz’s Sights In The City series?

Sights In The City Jamel Shabazz (1980) | New York City

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