Learning “To Express”

A key part of my photography is being able to express what I see around me.  As I mentioned in my last post, the ability to see is a critical first step but if I’m not able to express that in my pictures I’m not engaging my audience.  How do we express what we see or perhaps the better question is how does a photography express itself to us?  When you look at a picture, it might trigger your emotions, you might sense there is a story unfolding.

As we journey through life we interpret our world through our experiences and we create stories that help us make sense of the world.  For example, when we interpret someone is angry, we engage a story that there is a risk of a pre-defined behavior occurring and so we take the appropriate action.  Imagine if we didn’t do this, each moment of every day would be new to us and completely unpredictable!

I see a connection between what I express in my photographs and the interpretation of the observer based on their stories.  If this is true, by and large, we should all have slightly differing interpretations, depending upon how strong the image is.  In order to test this out, I am requesting your help.  Looking at the four pictures below, what does each express to you and why?  There are no right or wrong answers here, what it expresses to you is completely valid.  If you are willing to share your observations I will be very grateful.  It will help me understand what you see versus what I think you will see.

Thank you!


10 thoughts

  1. photo #1 absorbed in seeing
    photo #2 eager and ready
    photo #3 uncertain pride
    photo #4 “Here I am”
    Andy, i forgot to post a comment after your last blog. But I’m reminded now of it and the time of learning to draw. That taught me so much about learning to see and how the major obstacle to drawing was in the attempt to draw a concept, a nose or an ear, and not the actual lines of the object of perception. Expression takes it a step further into the nuances of the perceiver’s interest and highlighting. Which, I suppose, unites the subject with the object in some sort of beautiful way that you are capturing with your work.

    • Phil, your comment about learning to draw is very thought provoking and that would certainly help me develop a completely new perspective. I will have to give that some thought. When you mention above the obstacle is the attempt to draw the concept versus the lines. Are you saying we should focus more on the concept or simply the lines?

  2. 1. Obedience
    2. Tribal bonds
    3. Hope for the future
    4. Uncertainty

    Andy, your work is truly amazing and has inspired lively discussions around our home about true happiness and material goods. The images from Addi Abbas demonstrates this for me. I found these people to possess an authentic sense of satisfaction and joy in their lives. It was beautiful to see–thanks for sharing.


  3. Phil, Liz, Frank and Ellen,
    Thank you so much for sharing your insights and they are fascinating! Some of the words you use are very powerful; “Indifferent”, “Belonging”, “Uncertain”, “Hope”. Here is my list:
    1. Curious, who are they?
    2. Strength and indifference
    3. Hope and uncertainty
    4. Tradition and belief

    My challenge is to more consistently recognize (or create) the expression and mood before I take the picture. I suspect this would reduce the number of pictures I take and will require great awareness.

  4. 1 – watching intently taking in what is happening
    2. Male Pride, power, masculinity (sp?)
    3. smiling child – innocence, waiting for something
    4. Look at me

  5. Andy, thanks for your great pictures and making your sharing so interactive.
    My interpretation of the 4 pictures:
    1. Curiosity with some fear: “Who is this stranger?”
    “Will that thing (camera) in his hand harm us?”
    2. Sense of community: “Fellow villagers on guard!”
    3. Hope of the future
    4. Tradition and culture

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