“It seems to me that this awareness is one step toward having an experience and then being able to effectively communicate that experience to others through photography.” From yesterday’s post, Influences
As a photographer, have you ever found yourself firing off shot after shot, hoping to ‘catch the moment,’ only to realize later that you don’t quite recall the experience you were shooting?
Have you ever been traveling with your spouse, and they ask you to put down the camera and just sit with them for a while?
Ever sit down to ingest your images, and you find that something is missing from just about all of them, save for one or two keepers, and that there’s nothing much to be said about all those other shots?
There can be a palpable disconnect from our experience when we remain ‘behind the lens’, seeking to capture something extraordinary on the sensor. In a way, though, this can seem a very comfortable place. That position is familiar. You know how to work all the buttons and dials. It’s where all the action of photography takes place, right?
Wrong. Well, not 100% wrong. Call it “incomplete” instead.
When you notice these disconnects it’s likely because we sometimes see our experience as split between Me – the photographer, and It – the subject being photographed. In other words, there is ‘that stuff going on over there’ and ‘me over here taking a picture of it.’ From your personal perspective, this certainly seems to be true, but it’s incomplete. It’s little wonder that some photos tend not to draw a viewer into the scene, causing them not to linger a bit longer. I think the viewer senses the disconnect somehow. That’s a shame, because isn’t ‘audience involvement’ the thing that we strive for when creating an image? The Creativity loop is completed when our efforts — our art — is seen and appreciated by others.
What’s taking place in front of your lens is a part of your experience. Vice versa, your experience is also part of the experience of what is in front of you. They are not two experiences. Think of it as a single experience shared. The question remains, “How do I take not this subject, but this experience, and effectively communicate that to the viewer?”
As I suggested in yesterday’s post, I think it starts with nothing more than a greater awareness of the shared nature of experience, the real connection between photographer and subject.
Rather than resting comfortably behind the lens, start by reminding yourself that you are an integral part of the scene that you’re shooting, and not separate from it. Think less about “I” versus “It” and think more about “We.”
Take a few breaths before you start clicking off frames. Get to know your subject better. Walk around it, look into it, ask questions of it, listen to the replies. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, place, or thing. Just have the dialogue in your head as you take a few extra moments to establish a relationship with your subject, and to realize that together you share one experience, not two.
When both you and the subject are ready, dance. Do your thing until you know it’s time to stop. Take a moment to thank your subject, then walk away.
I’m quite sure you’ll get more keepers with just a little more awareness of what’s actually going on. What is more important is that by moving more fully into the experience you share with your subject, rather then being disconnected from it, you can’t help but convey that to the viewer of your image.
Nikon D7000, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 23mm (34mm), f/7.1, 11 exp. 1/1000 – 1/10s. HDR Express merge, multiple tonemaps, Nik Color Efex Pro