“It’s just emotion that’s taking me over.” This short lyrical riff from the 70’s era Samantha Sang song, Emotion,” (written and performed by the Gibbs brothers – the Bee Gees) might just be a good photographic theme (just to assure those of you might be worried, no, I was not/am not a Disco fan – but you have to admit, some of the music had rhythm and melody that was just – well, catchy 🙂 ).
A recent photo contest statement illustrates the sentiment. The art director for the sponsor noted that what he was looking for was images that would evoke an emotional response. That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it? Looking through some of my images, I asked myself, do they evoke an emotion? And if I thought the answer was yes, how could I articulate the emotion? Did they make me sad, happy, angry, excited, euphoric or depressed? Almost universally, I could not label any of my images with those traditional emotional responses. So what, exactly does it mean to have an “emotional response” to an image?
That got me thinking about whether my images evoke any emotional response, and if so, could I articulate it?
My conclusions are equivocal. On a purely empirical level, I suppose it can be said that every photograph evokes some emotion. We often see and hear comments like, “nice,” “beautiful,” “awesome,” “great composition,” “well – seen,” and the like. Less often, it may be “ho-hum,” or “yuck, that’s awful,”(though I suspect these latter comments are more often thought than heard or seen 🙂 ).
Recently, I read a statement by a photographer who said we as photographers often put too much emphasis on our work being liked or accepted by other photographers. It was a statement that resonated with me. While I welcome constructive critique, it is not the “camera club” photo contests and observance of “rules of photography” that is a motivating factor for my images. I want my images have impact generally to viewers who aren’t looking at it as photographers and artists, but just looking at it as an observer.
An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction
“Emotion” is perhaps not the precisely correct word for this phenomenon. An image with impact should create an emotional, even perhaps visceral reaction in the viewer. It needs to strike a chord that makes them keep coming back to it and keep looking at it (and in the economic sense, it has to create a feeling with that viewer that they want to have it hanging on their wall, day after day).
And if not, is the image worth making?
As I thought about this, I wondered how reach that emotional “chord” in people? And as I thought more, a plausible answer came to me. Does the image cause a visceral or emotional response in me? If so, there is a pretty good chance it will create that response in the viewer. And if not, is the image worth making?
Thanks for reading
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