One of our goals in photography is to create images that tell a story. Much like how the author of a novel needs to capture his or her reader with the first few sentences, the photographer needs to capture and retain the attention of a viewer.
Taking the book analogy one step further, the novels we enjoy are typically those that draw us into the imaginary world created by the author. We develop emotional relationships to the characters, places and events because they remind us of people we know, fears we have, places we have visited, and our own personal experiences in life. Photographic images must do the same, but without the words. Our challenge is therefore to create images that not only represent what we saw but also depict our feelings and our imagination in a way that the viewer can relate to.
Because what we see stirs up our emotions, whenever something captures our attention we should pause for a moment and think about what it was that actually stopped us in our tracks. Since photography is a visual art though there is a tendency to focus on the visual elements when creating the final image. We are all taught techniques that help us recreate what we saw but it is extremely difficult to teach someone how to tap into their inner thoughts, feelings, experiences and imagination to recreate what they felt. In my recent Recreating Vision and Emotion post I wrote about how visual elements tell us something of the subject, but emotional elements add depth and meaning to the subject. Much like the characters in a book are given names to identify them as subjects, their personalities are also described to give us an insight into their life so that we may relate to them in some way.
In my last post (Family Portraits) I wrote about how a portrait of a person tells us as much about the photographer as it does the person being photographed and how, with this particular series of images, I wanted to capture the experiences of my own childhood by photographing my own children. However, even when there are no people in the scene I am photographing I still try to capture something that would suggest the presence of man. This is an important element in my images of abandoned places – I try to recreate my curiosity at what life must have been like by combining my imagination with artifacts left behind by people who may have lived or worked at the locations. In short, it is my fascination with the lives of others that draws me to this subject matter and it is my imagination of what life must have been like that I try to bring through in the images I create.
The following is an image that I took during one of my trips to the Lonaconing Silk Mill. A set of old stamps were scattered amongst a set of records that had been tipped out of an archival box onto a table. The records included meticulously maintained ledgers and I just thought that the stamp worked well with them as a background. I can almost imagine the accountant sitting under a dimly lit lamp keeping record of the purchases and sales for the Klotz Throwing Company who owned the silk mill.