Some people just do not know how to speak photo. You look at their images, and they are fine, properly exposed, nicely framed, perfectly lit. However, the images are just borderline of boring. They do not speak, do not convey any message, or meaning. They are flat as a line on the screen of heart rate monitor attached to a dead man.
Universities, schools or private Institutes channel thousands of new photographers every year, teaching them equipment, lighting, composition, yet none seem really capable of teaching photographers to speak photography. To convey a message with their image, to speak beyond the words.
Take portrait photographers. When I see an image of a person, I would like to know more about the individual. Most photographers are content with a facial exposure, showing a face but no character. Some images taken in a photo booth have more feelings and depth than many portrait photographers. And that is a machine taking pictures. Why is that ? Mostly because they focused on appearance and not perception.
These schools seem to teach the pronunciation rather than meaning. Not how to communicate with pictures, but rather how to pronounce photography well. The form precedes the meaning. The result is very blend and boring images. Technically perfect but not revealing.
When I see a portrait, i want to know more about the person I am seeing. And since I have never met that person, I want, I need to know everything with one photograph.
Studies show that 95 % of human communication is non verbal. That means the high majority of our language between each other does not use words. That is where photography should tap into. The unspoken world. Yet, rare and few are the photographers that actually know how to use that language and make it work. They know how to read, yet they are incapable to write.
I don’t want to see just faces, I want to read story, an explanation in that face. I want o read the person the same way as I read people the first time I meet them. It can tap into my emotions as well as my intellect, tickle my intelligence as well as my feelings. It can be said with one image or many, that is irrelevant, as long as I understand. As some as something about this person has been revealed to me.
This is true beyond portrait photography, obviously. It is essential for news, or sport, or even celebrity photography. It is what makes photography so extremely hard, but yet, so compelling and necessary. It is not an instrument to show, but a tool to explain. And yes, if properly handled, it is not only necessary, it is indispensable.
There should be a core message behind each photograph, something we can understand as well as relate to. Not just on a personal but also on a community level. Because photography is the ultimate viral element. If we like a picture, we will want, we will be compelled to share it with others. We will show it, make other discover it. As if it was ours. Because we are proud to share what it reveals and would like others, our friends, to share the same experience.
Obviously, that only works if the image is saying something.
Technique is important, like handwriting is with words. But mastering the language of photography is the key to great images and that can only be learned by first understanding it. Tell me a story I didn’t know, make me understand something new, let me meet someone special. Make me listen with my eyes.