The Heart Of The Artist

I was having an interesting conversation with my photographer friend Ian the other day. He was comparing my work to his. In his words, his photos were more “documentary” or “factual” while mine were more “artistic” and “poetic”. I was quite flattered by the comparison as I have always wanted to convey emotion and narrative through my pictures.

But it raised a question in my mind as to how we convey emotion and narrative through our pictures. How much is it in the composition, how much in the titling and presentation and how much is actually in the mind of the viewer?

How can you convey emotion through a composition? I think much relates to the state of mind of the individual taking the picture. Certainly when I’m in a happy mood I will notice positive things – on a basic level, the beauty of the world around. When I’m in a negative mood, I will be taking pictures of negative things, or things with negative associations – that seems to be chains for me. And in those images I am trying to convey feelings of being trapped, confined, restricted by life and a desire to be free. Positive images for me are the wide vistas of the countryside, wildlife running free, that sort of thing. I try to convey that sense of freedom and liberty, joy and life. I don’t know whether I succeed. Go and decide for yourself

I’ve come to realize that titling is equally important. A good title leads the viewer to what you want them to see. Some days I’m afraid I’m rather lazy – but if you want to convey a sense of a lion running free through the African veldt you don’t call your picture “Lion”. I keep promising myself that I must spend more time considering a title, but in the fast moving world of the internet I’m afraid that expedience often wins in the desperation to keep a high profile.

And then there’s the great unknown, the one thing that as an artist you are unable to control: the viewer. At its best, the viewer approaches the picture in the same frame of mind as the artist. At these times there is almost a spark – the viewer “gets” it. They can look at the picture and see through to its heart. I wonder whether much of the fuss over modern art is simply a case of the viewers inability to be on the same wavelength as the artist. Or the artist presenting a concept that is too esoteric.

So does that mean I have to approach my pictures with a viewer in mind? Or can I be utterly self-indulgent. Well, therein lies the difference between an amateur and a professional. The professional always has to make his or her own feelings subservient to those of the buying public. In some respects they have to limit their imaginations – rather like a photographer wanting to express himself artistically, but being restrained by the fact that the happy couple just want bog standard wedding pics.

The amateur is much better off in that respect. We have no professional considerations, we can let our imaginations and feelings run riot through our art. We have no audience other than friends and family.

We are free.

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