Rule of Thirds with some Light & Shadows

I started a new quilt top as soon as I returned to Michigan and have a third of it sewn together so I decided to take a break to respond to this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge: The Rule of Thirds. About a third of the distance home we stopped to spend a week-end with our daughter in Winston-Salem where she moved last December to start a new job at Salem Academy and College. We went for a walk-about of the campus and both of us were instantly smitten. They were celebrating their 250th anniversary with homecoming and graduation ceremonies. Old Salem is a living museum and Salem Academy and College is a part of this museum.

I composed this photo to highlight the main hall of Salem College built in 1856 but also wanted the photo to show that it overlooked the town square of Old Salem. I did minor cropping to center the banner announcing its 250th anniversary and the elegant porch within the center of the four lines that divide the image into horizontal and vertical thirds. I left the trees that frame the entrance in shadow so the eye is maintained in the center.

Salem Academy and College, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a women’s college (Bachelor and Master degrees) and girl’s academy – the oldest private educational institution for women & girls in the United States. The Moravian Church settled the town of Salem beginning in 1771 and the town was built to facilitate the Moravian core value of a holistic form of wellness that included physical, mental and spiritual growth. They had established a single brothers school in 1771 and wanted to provide the same for girls. In 1772 the town opened their school for single sisters and the girls lived in a cramped church residence until 1782 when the single sisters and older girls choir moved to their own residence. Although the Academy and College no longer are associated with the Moravian Church, the history of its early beginnings is evident in the buildings they use for girls’ and women’s educational activities.

This is a natural for thirds. I wanted the blooming azaleas to have center stage but also wanted the white picket fence and the old brick building in the background to help tell the story of this living museum. As I look at it with my heart, I look for the historical story written on the building in the shadows, and see the azaleas playing just a supporting role.

The literature I’ve read uses the phrases single brothers, single sisters and choir frequently and I spent a lot of time wondering what it meant. Finally I learned that “choir” relates to the segregation used in the Moravian Church to separate males and females in worship and for learning when young people were still single. I look forward to learning more about the progressive educational system instituted by the Moravians in Old Salem.

I experimented with how to use thirds when composing this photo. I found that using the lower horizonal third line to dissect the front table top pulled that table into center front with all the other tables serving as supporting cast for this story of women coming together over meals in celebration of their educational heritage. I find the tables in the dappled shade to be very inviting. The building in the background is the residence hall for the boarding high school students of the Academy.

According to the web site, “Schools for girls were rare in the early South.  In Salem, Single Sister Elisabeth Oesterlein began a small day school for girls in 1772.  By 1788, families across the South were asking if their daughters could come to Salem to receive an education.

In 1805, a girl’s boarding school was constructed in Salem, and the first class had 30 girls from across the South.  Girls took classes in reading, writing, syntax, history, geography, music, drawing and needlework.  In the late 1880s, the school was approved to offer a college education as well as the traditional preparatory program” provided by the Academy.

I was intrigued by this short shaded path – my daughter says she travels it often instead of going a few feet to the right or left to use the wider brick walks that would take her to her destinations. I wanted to capture the spirit of this path that causes a person to choose to go down it when it doesn’t directly lead to where they want to be. I took several photos and worked with each one but this one captures its essence best. I cropped so that the path, fountain and door fall on the right third vertical witness line and eliminated the building wall that is on the right. This made the trees more prominent and emphasized the shady walk. On the left I cropped to include some of the tree as a balance for the composition, along with the azalea. This puts the path off-center to symbolize its off-the-beaten-path nature. Horizontally I cropped so the canopy uses a bit more than the top third; the fountain, the tree on the left, and darkly shaded path the middle third; and the rest a skimpy bottom third. This was a breaking of the rule of thirds to emphasize the power of shade and light.

You have probably caught on that I didn’t get last week’s Lens-Artist Challenge “Rule of Thirds” finished before this week’s challenge of “Light and Shadow” was published. If I wait a couple more days I could integrate a third challenge into this post. Is including a third challenge too “shadowy” to fit into the “rule of thirds?”

12 thoughts on “Rule of Thirds with some Light & Shadows

  1. What a beautiful school, Pat. I love your images showing us the beauty of this school and the surrounding area. My favorites here are the garden path and the azaleas. How nice your daughter lives there! I also like how you cleverly combined two posts into one!


  2. Clever work to cover both themes with one post! The old buildings look beautiful, but I find it slightly incongruous that a college should be girls only (or boys only for that matter) in the 21st century! Is that common practice in the US?


    • There are a number of women only colleges and the research has found that women who attend these do better in college and in life. There is a bias favoring men in universities. They are more likely to be given time to speak and given special opportunities for learning to a greater extent than women.


  3. I always enjoy creative process posts – thanks for the walk-through of your world of creative art making. Congrats to your daughter on her new job and have fun with your new quilt project!


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