My Photography Philosophy, Steeped in Psychology
“To see the wilds of the Earth, to note the high and low charms of society – where man loves, toils, and wanders – that is my calling.” -Ellen Marsh (my best friend)
There is a common thread woven between the passions in my life. Whether I was going into psychology or photography or literature, I was going into the business of stories. Capturing them. Hearing them. Telling them. Sharing them. Holding them. Each action requires seeing the person (or people) in front of me and appreciating the uniqueness that has led to their story, listening to the nuances that are important to the story’s holder, and collaborating with them to create a new narrative.
Seeing, listening, and creating. This is what I have to offer.
Classical story telling is comprised of five components: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. The problem with photography (compared to psychology and literature), is that the point in the story you’re capturing is the resolution. And that often makes for really poor story telling. The point of the resolution is the absence of struggle; since there is no struggle to be captured, there is nothing that cements the importance of the resolution. You are capturing the Happily Ever After, and that’s often when people stop listening to a story.
So how does one create an interesting, engaging story out of a resolution? There are three elements from which all stories must take place, and that is where my focus as a photographer lies: characters, setting, and themes. Even a resolution is not void of these three elements. The characters are, of course, going to be the people who are in front of the camera. They are essential, as without them there is no story. They are complex, as their intricacies and idiosyncrasies are a composition of every moment that’s led them to the present. They are principal, as every individual’s story is worthy of being held and honored. The characters hold the movement of the story. The setting is the most contrived and intentional spot of the story, but it is able to speak the loudest through the lens. The place where one chooses to get married or wants to be captured with their love holds the feeling that the characters believe represents their story best. It immediately transports the viewer to the time and place of the journey. The setting holds the light of the story. The themes, in a literary sense, are the deeper veins running through and allegories that the author wants the reader to glean from the story. In real life, that might look like what an individual sees as trends in their life, the path they’re on, or their greater purpose. Ask a couple how they met, and listen to the specific words they choose. Attend a wedding, and pay attention to the colors and details and décor that was painstakingly put together. The way a couple interacts, their vows, the ways they support each other – these are all themes in their lives. The themes hold the emotion of a story.
Movement, light, emotion. This is what I choose to work with to tell stories.
Movement brings you into a moment. When looking at a photo of movement, your brain naturally completes the circuit. It understands the movement of a hug and the flow of wind. You can’t help but be brought into the story, however small, of a movement being completed. Light is truly the medium of photography. Everything that happens inside a camera is a way of adjusting the light. It is the photographer’s greatest ally (and sometimes their worst enemy). Emotion helps a viewer to know how to interact with the time and place of a photograph. Are we being invited into an intimate, still moment? Are we sharing in the couples’ laughter? Is this moment painful or exciting? The small intricacies of emotion tell a more complete version of Happily Ever After.