Monday, September 2, 2013

Photographing The Mystery - Photographs Should Reveal Or Be Mysterious

"A creative photographer is one who either captures mystery or reveals things, everything else is useless" --Raghu Rai
Raghu was right: the only successful photographs for the artist photographer are ones which captures mystery or reveals things (or both). Mystery and revelation are the two types of photographs which one should pursue.

Revealing photographs are ones that show a subject in a way that the viewer has not seen before. The subject may or may not be familiar to the viewer, but typically the viewer has some preconceived ideas of the subject. What makes a revealing photograph, well, revealing is that the viewer sees the scene in a brand new way. The photographer puts his or her unique perspective on the subject and the viewer is left with a different knowledge or feeling about it.

Capturing mystery is difficult to do, mostly because it can be tough to define. Mystery is abstract (mysterious photographs may or may not be abstract, it is the concept that is abstract). Mysterious photographs may be of subjects that the viewer is very familiar with, but there is something peculiar or enigmatic about the scene or in how the scene was captured that is out of the ordinary.
Over The Creek - Stallion Springs, California
The above photograph, which I captured yesterday while on a hike, is a good example of both. 

It is revealing because most likely the viewer has never seen this location before--very few have seen it, in fact. And even if one has seen it, the image is composed and edited in such a way that it should give the viewer a different perspective on what might otherwise be a forgettable landscape.

It is also mysterious. Where does the trail lead? What is around the corner behind the tree? Who uses this path? Why is it here? The photograph plays into one's adventurous spirit or fears. One is either excited to find out what is ahead or one is afraid to find out. Either way, the photograph does not tell the viewer what to expect, and it is one's imagination that takes over. That is the mystery. And the monochrome treatment aids in the mysterious feeling--a color image would not have been as successful.

The take away here is to look for opportunities to create mysterious or revealing images. You should be thinking about this as you approach the subject. How can I make a revealing photograph here? Or, what is mysterious about this scene? Combined with vision, this is how one creates successful images. This may, in fact, even be a part of photographic vision.

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