Creating an Emotional Connection in our Photographs

January 27, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Creating an Emotional Connection in our Photographs

Yellow PassageYellow Passage

I’ve recently begun to prepare the next subject for my Photo Atelier, that of creating emotion in our photographs. This topic coincides with a question from a participant, asking how to more effectively imbue a subject with a sense of emotion.

In answering my student as to how to create emotion in a photograph, the first question is ‘why’ are you choosing this subject? Then, what do you feel? The connection is made, knowing what the emotion is that you want to communicate. Then, what choices can you make? In my presentation, I consider how color, lighting, the use of framing, orientation, spaciousness, and point of view add meaning to an image. Lastly, the use of metaphor and symbolism are examined.

Columbia Narrows, Hope Valley, RIColumbia Narrows, Hope Valley, RI

I will use my work as an example. I am drawn to subject matter of rusting steel industrial relics and farms whose purposeful architecture often has not been maintained with fresh paint and double paned glass. When I see a silo or smokestack in the distance, it is like a magnet that pulls me closer. What is it about these places that intrigue me? How does finding these places make me feel? In these initial steps, by answering these questions and identifying what that intrigue is, I can start to make decisions about how to represent it with the camera. Aesthetic and technical settings are initial considerations regarding how to best communicate my feelings. Ultimately, this becomes intuitive. More importantly, why is this so important that I must stop and make a photograph?

Mill Reflections, Kezar FallsMill Reflections, Kezar Falls

At the heart of my message, and the well from which decisions are made is my love of beauty in obsolescence. My subjects at one time were purposeful and cutting-edge. In the case of mills, there were the buildings themselves, stores, housing, civic buildings, all in the service of the people who worked there. Also there was the ingenuity of solving problems with new inventions. As progress passed these innovations by in favor of newer, shinier, more efficient technologies, these once vibrant entities began to transform.

When I photograph these relics, be it a barn, a mill, or even a small tool shed, I imbue inanimate objects with human emotions (anima). The emotion is the empathy knowing its past and now its abandonment.

I feel respect and curiosity honoring its former purposefulness, admiring its construction, and wondering what secrets there are still within its walls. There is the feeling of nostalgia, vulnerability, and mission of recording the soon to be forgotten. If a photograph reflects who we are as unique individuals, then the feeling I see in these subjects mirrors an emotion existing in myself.

Watchful WaitingWatchful Waiting

A photograph that effectively conveys a sense of emotion is ‘made’ not ‘taken’. We all continue to learn fluency in the use of photographic tools to communicate our message. Through practice and asking the right questions, we develop a more intuitive approach to our vision. The benefit of teaching these concepts is reflected in my own creative process and a deeper connection in the way I see the world.

Clearing Skies at Sunset, ExeterClearing Skies at Sunset, Exeter

 


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