A Different Perspective
Perspective means so many different things in photography. When you are behind the camera ‘perspective’ is a powerful and complex tool used to compose an image. Perspective also comes into play when a viewer stands in front of one of your creations that is displayed proudly on a wall.
I was reading a book the other day that briefly explored the thought:
Is perspective the view from where you are standing, or is it the view from where you have been and what you have experienced in life?
The answer to this question is obvious to me. It is simply, YES. Image making is not only a visual art but, to me at least, it is even more a mental art. For one of my images to really stick in my mind, it has to have a story to it. It’s even better if I can find some kind of ‘life’ message in it.
I really became aware of the different meanings people can pull out of an image depending on their ‘perspective’ when I was hanging out at a gallery opening talking to people about one of my pieces hanging on the wall in front of us. While processing this particular image (Autumn’s Expression) Autumn's ExpressionShoshone Falls & Park with a touch of Autumn color my little brain had written enough personal meaning into it to fill a small book. I would mention this to someone and, in return, they would volunteer what they saw in the image. To my initial frustration, no one came even close to seeing what I did. After I stuffed the quick flare-up of pride back down where it belongs, hearing others views became both entertaining and enlightening.
If you ask several people to take a picture that portrays a particular object or concept you will inevitably get a wide variety of images back. One of my most successful images to date is one I took of a religious building with a cloudy sky being the dominant part of the image. I loved it… it sold well but when I took it into one bookstore that sold my images the lady behind the counter refused to take it into inventory because she found the clouds offensive. She wanted a cloudless blue (boring) sky behind it.
Ask someone to take a picture of what the word ‘carnival’ brings to mind. You will get some bright and colorful photos and some that are very different. I don’t really have anything against carnivals but the image that first comes to mind is one that portrays the petty and carnal tendencies that come natural to most of us. Kind of like the images created in Ray Bradbury’s ‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’. I walked past a small carnival that was slowly being set up for a quick weekend run and saw a composition forming that I couldn’t hardly wait to get back to shoot that evening (Three Tokens Only).
This ‘Viewer Perspective’ thing is an important thing to understand when we try to make images that will speak to others. We have to be able to step out of our own ‘perspective’ and look at an image like someone with a different ‘perspective’ might.
But that is a subject for another post.
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