The Meaning of a Photo

Posted on June 17, 2014
Updated October 1, 2019

Well, besides being able to use a camera, here’s what photography means to me as an art. It’s a perspective I’ve been slowly developing for some time, but one that has come into focus recently as I delve deeper. All the statements below aren’t meant as universal truths, they’re very subjective. But it’s fun to write as if they are.

A great photo communicates something – I like to tell a story of light – how it created a moment in time, and conveyed to me a feeling or impression.

Instead of being an accurate capture of what was literally in front of the lens, a good photo communicates the feeling: how the eye saw it, or really how the mind saw it… or even, how the soul was moved.

A great photo doesn’t need a particular composition, although knowing the rules means being able to stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before. It just means telling this story. The story might be more than visual, or tell of more than a feeling. There might be a real narrative – and whatever tells it best makes for a better photo. I guess a better story means an even better photo.

All in all, the photo is a means of communication – it can be romantic, fantastic, narrative or informative. Whether it’s good or not, like all art and design, depends on whether it fulfils it’s own purpose.

I’m not too concerned with telling of more than how light played in a moment, how a person or a thing existed. I like to emphasise what I felt was interesting or even magical about a particular thing. It’s my way of communicating how life looks to me, how I hope I can see it all the time. It’s a homage to life, it’s potential and it’s limits.