Shortly after publishing my last blog post, I was catching up on some of my favorite nature photography blogs, and read a great post on Guy Tal’s blog (The Concept) about making your photographs about something, rather than merely of something. I couldn’t agree more. This distinction is something we should be keenly aware of in our attempts to create more meaningful photographs.
If the goal is to create significant art, significant at least personally, then simply making a photograph of a pretty place is not going to do it. And copying what’s already been done certainly isn’t going to cut it. Not that pretty places, or even places that have been photographed to death, are off limits in the pursuit of art, but there has to be something more, some underlying meaning or idea; something to give the image emotional or intellectual depth. The photographs that burn themselves into your memory aren’t about places or things; they’re power lies in feelings, emotions, stories, and symbolism.
Guy suggests, at an early stage in the photographic process that we try to actually express the concept in words, in order to “bridge the gap between the spoken language, which most of us are taught to communicate effectively in, and the visual language”. Articulating feelings about a scene can help us focus on what exactly it is that we’re trying to say with a photograph, or what exactly it was that made us stop and want to make a photograph in the first place.
Focusing on the concept or the idea behind the image is a sure route towards making images that express vision and depth. As Ansel Adams famously said, “there is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy idea”. Defining the concept can help photographic artists, working in any genre of the medium, make clearer and stronger photographic statements.