Photography is more than photographing objects, it’s our inner response that really has something to say.
Consider an ordinary photograph of a lake, it may be just that, it’s a factual depiction of what was there. We all know about lakes. They contain water, they might have a shoreline, perhaps some fish, but what inspires us to create a photograph? The response that a scene evokes is something entirely different to the scene itself, yet, that response is exactly what will connect with our audience. So we need to stop looking at a lake as a lake, and start considering how it fits in with our emotional connection. If we view the world like this we start to use the elements differently, they are suddenly transformed from being subjects and become elements of mood, atmosphere, light, colour, and expression. It’s up to you.
It’s this personal connection with our world that separates our images, this connection means that my images will be different to Fred’s from down the road, and yet it’s how we connect as author and audience, it’s why I can visit the same location as Fred does and come away with something entirely different.
So how about the image above? It was taken from the edge of Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan has many facts, it’s among the largest fresh water bodies in the world and has a maximum depth of nearly 300m, but that’s all very factual isn’t it. To create this image I had to behave a little strangely, rather than positioning myself with an un-obscured view of the lake and surrounds, I found myself directly behind this bare tree, aligning silhouettes, reflections and colours into a design I found pleasing, creating relationships and gesture between land, lake and light. There’s more I can do to fine tune my expression in this image but that’s a matter of detail now. The very fact that you would never take this obscured angle as a casual observer is one of the hurdles of photography.
Update (July 2017):
It’s interesting how our response and interpretations change over time. As time passes my memory of this scene recedes somewhat, and so the interpretation has changed also. The photograph was difficult to create, I had just spent an age climbing an endlessly steep sand dune with one step backward for each step forward, I didn’t know that reaching the top was even a possibility, by the time I found this beautiful tree I was at my end. As a result my first interpretation imparts some of that into the image, it was more moody, deeper, and higher contrast.
Today I am less influenced by the way I felt at the time, and more influenced by my interpretation of the scene, how is the photograph speaking to me now? I sense the form and gesture, branches reach, grow, persist, develop, there’s a horizon, endlessness, time, a quiet moment, space. My interpretation has shifted further from my experience, it has become less about what I’m imparting on the scene, and more about how I respond to it, as I try to internalise what I feel my interperation changes. The image below represents this later interpretation, which I find more pleasing and gentle.