Photography as Poetry

 In Newsletter, Picture

One of the big myths believed in photography is that every good photo must tell a story. I simply disagree. While a good photo may tell a story, not all good photos need to tell a story.

I think this myth probably evolved from the journalistic side of photography. In journalism, you want to tell a story with you image, because instead of writing a 300 to 500 word story, you’re trying to distill those words into a single picture. When a journalistic image does it right, it’s worth a 1,000 words, and the image tells you who, what, when, where and why. But, a good image doesn’t have to be the equivalent of a newspaper story. And photography isn’t just about capturing reality. It’s also about art.

hansel_bryan_140312-31For the last few years, I’ve been working on my Juxtaposition in Landscape Photography project. It’s on the art side of the art/journalism spectrum. I’ve also been teaching the concepts that drive the project during my classes, workshops and lectures. For the project, I combine two or three concrete elements of composition and juxtapose them.

The concept comes from my hobby of writing haiku, a form of Japanese poetry. In high school, you probably learned to write a “haiku” when you’re teacher used it to explain syllables. You probably wrote it in three lines of five, seven and five syllables. Sometime, the poems became limericky. That’s not really haiku though. In most haiku, the writer takes two concrete images and juxtaposes them to produce a “Aha moment” in the reader. That aha moment is “a moment of sudden insight or discovery.”

In my Juxtaposition in Landscape Photography project, that aha moment comes when the viewer is simply struck by the beauty of the image, and it comes at a deeper level when he or she analyzes how the elements of compositions are either echoing, contrasting or expanding upon each other — also concepts from haiku. I’m not trying to tell a story with these images, I’m just trying to evoke an emotional response. And, I suspect that you’d consider a good many of them good images.

I think it’s time to put the myth that every good image must tell a story to rest. And when thinking about photography as art say instead, every good photo must evoke emotion. Don’t you agree?

Select Images from July

Here are a few images that I took in July. It seems like my July was Milky Way and kayaking. Click on the image to see it larger.

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old cedar and island on Two Island Lakelightning strike behind the Grand Marais lighthouse