According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a diptych /ˈdɪptɪk/ is:
1. a 2-leaved hinged tablet folding together to protect writing on its waxed surfaces;
2. a picture or series of pictures (as an altarpiece) painted or carved on two hinged tablets; or
3. a work made up of two matching parts.

I love making diptychs of the latter kind.

It’s striking how one is able to convey more using a pair of well-chosen images instead of two pictures as separate entities. That’s the beauty of diptychs, with their enhanced potential for storytelling.

For instance, this monochrome diptych features the living room of the Punta della Dogana Suite and a close-up of a Murano lamp in the room. I like how the light falls and the different textures in these two photos, as well as the elevated sense of tranquility and grace shown in this combination.

DSCF4058,4294a25bwb

The following diptych, featured in “Postcards from Italy“, was also taken in the Punta della Dogana Suite. Aside from the obvious colour difference between the two diptychs, I think that each pairing tell a different story.

I feel that the monochrome diptych depicts a scene of timeless elegance while the latter is about a journey. What do you think?

DSCF3999,4300k64

Some diptychs show different perspectives of the same scene or setting. What I like about diptychs is that you can provide more information about an experience through a thoughtful pairing.

For instance, these two photos were taken along a disused train track in Charleroi. While they look fine on their own, I find that the visual impact is significantly increased when they are placed side by side. I like the juxtaposition of the wide shot of the abandoned factory against the close-up image of the train tracks.

06Tracks04,8tc4

Recently, I started making diptychs combining pictures taken by AB and I. It’s interesting to see how each of us views what’s around us, as well as mix things up a bit with our photographic styles.

This pair of photos was taken at La Caféothèque and featured in a recent post on “No Shitty Coffee in Paris“. While the two photos were taken about six months apart, I thought they came together nicely.

By the way, both were taken with AB’s Voigtlander Bessa rangefinder: One with Kodak Tx 400, the other with Solaris 400.

Caféotheque - KODAK TX400,Solaris400

The diptych below features photos that we took in Charleroi: One of Nicolas and I catching our breath on top of a slag heap – taken by AB who had used his red filter after mistakenly loading colour film into his camera. The other is a silhouette shot of AB and Enrico chatting in the dark depths of a never-been-used metro station.

Charleroi2

How the pictures are placed next to each other makes a difference too. Sometimes I can’t make up my mind. I would switch the order of the photos back and forth, left and right, and top and bottom, before asking for AB’s input after minutes of deliberation.

This pair of photos – taken outside a disused cooling plant in Charleroi, works better in this arrangement than the other way round. If I were to have placed the flower shot on the left instead, the lines of the overhead pipes would have appeared (too) harmoniously joined together.

26Cooling tower05,26lf

I find that diptychs work well for food shots too. Here are two examples.

First up, tasty tapas with a modern twist at Eslava @ 3 calle Eslava in Seville. My favourite was the scallops served atop seaweed puree and kataifi noodles.

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The only thing in common between the two pictures below is that they were taken in Hokkaido . While there’s no direct relation between them, I find that the pairing works well and is pleasing on the eye. Why exactly, I don’t know. It just does!

Diptych

Famous diptychs in the art and religious worlds include:

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25 replies on “Diptych: When 1 + 1 equals more than 2

  1. Loved this post! I really enjoy seeing the though process behind how photos are arranged so this was neat!

  2. Interesting idea and the concept of a couple contributing one image each is really nice. Quite romantic in fact. The top one works best in my view. I must try this when we get back from Barcelona.

  3. I’m fascinated by the concept, how images work so well together and sometimes one wouldn’t even know it unless they saw them side by side. I totally relate to your switching them around until you find the ”perfect” combination… coincidentally I was working on a similar project of posts, just because I loved how some photos fit nicely one after the other. I’ll be posting them starting this week.

    1. Having some order is part of story-telling, though I’ve seen photo books that are produced such that you can move the pages around randomly. I don’t get those…

      Looking forward to your upcoming posts!

    1. You’re most welcome. I didn’t know of this word until about two years ago – I put together a pair of photos and showed my new idea to AB. He then informed me that what I did was create a “diptych” 😉

  4. I like your diptychs. Especially how you connect disparate bits to tell a story. I need to try more of that.

    I have been making them in-camera which requires the negatives to be side by side. Necessarily, for my visual memory anyway, mine are taken close together in time and space. I need to find a way of taking the shots far apart and having them work well as yours do. A sketchbook perhaps.

    1. Thank you! How do you make them in-camera? Do you have a post showing the process? Would be interesting to see.

      You could try taking just one shot of everything with an underlying theme that runs through all of the images.

      1. Hi Angelina, thanks for your interest. Your suggestion is a good one, to shoot a theme. I like to put some careful consideration into what I combine, and since it is combined on the negative, I would need to keep a good sense of what I had shot before, which might even be days earlier.

        I use a half-frame camera (an Olympus Pen from 1960). These cameras only shoot one half of the normal 35mm negative per shot which for two adjacent shots results in an aspect ration the same as a full frame 35mm negative, and triptychs are not too elongated either. I shoot with the intention of scanning adjacent frames (2, 3 or more) as a single image.

        There are several forms I have been experimenting. Simple “panoramas” which pan through a subject on adjacent frames. This is one of my favourites: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-5px in that mode.

        Diptychs (and triptychs) more akin to what you are doing, related aspects of a subject viewed differently – in my case because I need to hold an image in my head between shots, they tend to be taken very close together in time and space. This is an example that I think works well: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-5fn

        The ones I enjoy the most though I term fliptychs – these are taken of the same subject from the same point of view but with rotating the camera between the two shots (sometimes 3 shots). They tend to be very abstract, and I often process them pretty heavily for colouring and so on on after the fact to further abstract them. My fliptychs can be found here: http://burntembers.com/tag/fliptych/ This is one of my favourites: http://wp.me/p1R4lY-5nK

        I don’t have a single post that explains the method, but it is simple and I think this comment pretty much lays it out, as well as the text in various posts. The tricks lie in figuring out how to line things up between shots (especially for the fliptychs), learning the camera very well (like how much extra do you get on the negative than what you see in the viewfinder) – in other words ‘practice makes perfect’.

        There are lots of half-frame cameras out there, most of them from the 60s and 70s, some of them are optically excellent, and some are allow full control over exposure and so on. So, it is not hard to get into this. I think it is hard to take really good pictures this way, and I still have lots of work to do in that department. But it sure is a lot of fun!

        1. Thanks for the helpful information! I just read some articles on half-frame cameras and taking photographs with them. I love how it was created to make photography more accessible to the public, both in terms of using the camera and the economy of getting 72 pictures instead of 36. Shall keep a lookout on ebay for a secondhand one. First I’ll have to familiarise myself with a Canonet QL17 that I recently bought 🙂

  5. Beautiful! I need to get myself back in diptychs there is a story you can tell through them it’s so good 🙂 Lovely post and amazing narratives as usual

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