Saturday, December 15, 2007

Music And Photography

The Theory: We might understand our photography better though comparison with similar issues in music.

The Example:

We are told our images need emotional impact, but how do you go about putting emotion into every single landscape image. It's unrealistic. Can we learn anything by comparing this problem to something similar in music?

The same situation in music would be having to make every song, all tunes, each composition a tear jerker or arousing patriotic fervour or raising our blood pressure.

We'd have to eliminate any pleasant catchy tunes because they don't slap you in the face with a message. We'd expect emotion with songs about war and lost loves, but perhaps not about Saturday night, or Santa Coming. Can you imagine if every Christmas song played at this time of year played with your emotions, some holiday that would turn out to be.

Truth is we need "filler" songs, ones that don't play with our emotions but are simply nice music.

Music can be about the spontineity and invention of jazz or the mathematical complexities of Bach, the fun of Arrogant Worms "I Am Cow".

Perhaps this means that we can be forgiven for simply making a nice picture, a cute picture, an amusing picture, an illustrative picture, without tackling the great themes of love, loss, war, regret, revenge and so on.

There are tunes that do grab at our heartstrings, without us even knowing why. How many people get a litle choked up as they hear Amazing Grace played on the bagpipes. I assumed it was because I was Scottish, but other bagpipe music doesn't do it, and lots of non Scottish people react to the same music. Some of the opera choruses have a similar effect, even though the operas are sung in a foreign language and non opera fans have no clue what the plot is about. Perhaps it's enough that we react to the scene enough to take the picture, and somewhere there are a few others who also get a reaction, that no one can explain, nor need to.

Speaking for myself, there is no single photographer, or even book of photographs from a series of photographers, in which I react equally to each and every image. On the contrary, there are a small minority of the images that 'do it' for me and experience tells me that those are not the same ones that 'do it' for you.

I'm guessing that there's music that you don't like and your neighbour loves, just as you disagree on the best images, even when you both like the same kind of music or photographs.

I think what this is telling us is that if we really want to play on the emotions of the viewer, we should shoot war images or puppies. Otherwise we should stop worrying about the message the image has and concentate on what makes us react, regardless of whether we can analyze that reaction.

In other words, photograph what interests you and present it in the best possible way and let people decide for themselves how they should react, if at all.

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