Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story
September 4, 2016
“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
Having well developed skills in the technical aspects of photography are certainly important in making impactful images. To riff on the comment from Ansel Adams, I would say that the artist’s intention and feeling of connection with the subject are perhaps even more important.
In this post, I explore three ideas that I keep in my back pocket when out on a photo shoot: Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story.
Metaphor is defined by Random House as, “something used…to represent something else; symbol; emblem”. In the visual arts, we often create images that make us think of something else, or represent something beyond the literal. The image above isn’t unique in it’s use of the visual metaphor of a path or trail leading into the light. Many paintings through the centuries invite the viewer to think of life’s journey by including a winding path in the image. For me, this scene used that visual metaphor, and I consciously worked the composition and sun’s rays through multiple shots and angles to express what I was feeling — a sense of my own life journey finding fresh ways to see and experience beauty in the world and the opportunity to bring more light and happiness into my own life and those whom I connect with. Let me know if the image evokes that feeling for you.
Imagination is defined as “the faculty or action of producing ideas, especially mental images of what is not present or has not been experienced”; also “the ability to face and resolve difficulties; resourcefulness.” Similar to metaphors, this idea takes us beyond literal interpretations into something we can create or dream into existence through our own creative power. Abstract compositions like the Lotus blossom invite us to imagine or create worlds of our own beyond the actual subject of the image. What do you see in this image? By the way, have you noticed that the word “imagination” originates from the word “image”?
Story is defined as “a narrative, either true or fictitious, in prose or verse, designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader; tale”. Everyone says, “a picture is worth a thousand words”, so we all know that images can be powerful ways to tell a story. Journalism, both in print and online, uses photography and other visual arts to illustrate the story being told. Conveying a story in a photograph is obvious in street photography, or images of people like the one above, but conveying a story in nature photography is a bit more challenging. My last photo below of a magical valley of fog at sunrise attempts to invite you into your own story, and perhaps uses a combination of all three ideas, visual metaphor, imagination and story.
Check out my portfolio site at: chrisallenimages.com for many more photos available for purchase. And subscribe to my blog on the home page of the blog site to keep up to date with my latest “Photo Musings”.
Energetics of Touch
July 27, 2016
“Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight.”
Diane Ackerman; author of two dozen highly-acclaimed works of poetry and nonfiction, including the bestsellers “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “A Natural History of the Senses,” and the Pulitzer Prize Finalist, “One Hundred Names for Love.”
Those of you who read my May 1st post will know that I have been on a healing journey from an April 25th fall resulting in two fractured vertebrae. I’m almost fully recovered and 95% pain free after 3 months of physical therapy, massage, chiropractic and acupuncture sessions. I have continually maintained a mindset of gratitude and patience with the healing process and never bought into suggestions “why aren’t you better already?”. These things take their own time, and I find that a mindset of patience with the natural healing process is really important.
When you look at the modalities I pursued for healing, you will see that they all involve hands-on bodywork and the sense of touch. Those who need scientific verification of the healing power of touch can find ample evidence in the literature, but for me it needs no proof beyond my own experience. I know that there is research on how receptor cells in the skin carry electrical impulses to every part of the body including the brain and all the organ systems. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are based on ancient wisdom about meridian pathways in the physiology that carry impulses from the skin’s surface to very specific organs and this is used for healing effect, including pain relief and actual restoration/balancing of proper body functions.
Connecting these ideas to photography and the focus of this post is an idea inspired by my own journey of spiritual and creativity development that all the senses are intimately connected with one another; and with our inner consciousness or sense of Self. As a visual artist / photographer, I always seek to create images that engage the viewer on an emotional and deep level of awareness that simultaneously reveal the beauty and inner essence of the subject, as well as serving as a mirror or window into our own Soul as human and spiritual beings.
Is that really possible? Well, I don’t know for sure, but it’s a passion that I seem to be called to explore and share!
In this last of three posts dedicated in turn to the Energetics of color, typography and touch I’m sharing some of my photos that to me, enliven the sense of touch through the capture of textural qualities that “painting with light” through the photographic medium has a unique ability to produce.
While the application of textures in post-processing through software presets is all the rage among digital photography enthusiasts right now, and I have explored them a bit myself; I still find that the technology of the lens and the camera’s light sensor are already capturing an element of texture in the image and can awaken the sense of touch for the viewer. My journey of exploration is whether or not the combined visual/touch sensory perception of the photo can enliven a healing effect in the physiology of the viewer. For me as the creator of the image it certainly does.
My images are interspersed through the text to hopefully keep your interest through a rather long post! I invite your comments on my rambling, or as I call them, “Photo Musings”.
Energetics of Typography
July 25, 2016
“How then to express oneself clearly? By image and by myth, as the sages of all time have done.” — Rene Adolphe Schwaller de Lubicz (1887-1961); Egyptologist, author of The Temple in Man: Sacred Architecture and the Perfect Man.
In my last post, I explored the energetics of color, drawing from my own exploration of ancient wisdom teachings about the frequencies of light expressed in different colors and their impact on mind, body and spirit. For this post, I researched the evolution of alphabetic forms of writing and how the forms and shapes of different typographic fonts might also have an effect on our psyche and emotions.
The earliest forms of written communication were through pictographs or symbols used to represent ideas and things, rather than sounds (Egyptian hieroglyphics for example). Through my research, I learned that circa 1100 BCE, Phoenician traders developed the beginnings of the modern day phonetic alphabet. This earliest alphabet consisted of 22 letters to represent consonant sounds, and was much easier for traders to learn than Egyptian hieroglyphics prevalent at the time.
This sound based form of writing also facilitated use across multiple languages which probably accounts for it’s adoption and expansion into ancient Greece by 800 BCE, and further evolution and use through most of the world.
When I think about the power of pictorial forms of communication to evoke an experiential connection between author / artist and reader / viewer, it makes me wonder if we have lost something by not using more pictorial forms of written communication. Yes, the phonetically-based alphabet lets us communicate more easily across multiple languages and cultures, but how do the letters on this page convey any of the emotional impact that pictorial forms of writing might have done?
Well, perhaps that’s were the imagination of the creators of different type styles comes to the rescue! Just think about the increasing proliferation of type styles that have evolved since Gutenberg’s first printing press. Fast forward to modern day print and digital media, and we can see how different type styles are used to generate emotion, incite action, or otherwise assist in conveying a deeper or fuller connection to the idea or concept being conveyed in the written word. Type styles are clearly an art form, and their creators put lots of thought into the objectives and intended use of the type styles they create. This became very clear to me as I explored blog sites of typography artists and what they wrote about type styles they have created.
Bringing all these ideas back to my passion for exploring photography as a medium of self-discovery, expression and even personal healing, I decided to experiment with the use of text and different type styles within some of my photographs. My goal is to convey ideas in a visual form, with writing and type styles that compliment or enrich the idea or visual metaphor that I wish to communicate through my images.
Of course, we are all familiar with the use of inspirational messaging in photographs or other forms of visual art. All too often they come across as rather trite or perhaps “preachy”. I hope to avoid those pitfalls in these images, while at the same time, sharing a few ideas that have become important in my own life experience; exploring the emotional or even healing effect of words and images combined with typographic styles that further support the intent of the image. I welcome your comments!
Energetics of Color
May 15, 2016
In the world of artistry and art therapy, there is much study of color and it’s visual impact in painting or other mediums of expression. Among the most interesting to me is the concept of complementary colors as shown in the color wheel below.
In photography we make use of complementary colors to create more impact and power within an image.
However, there’s a more esoteric field surrounding the theory and study of color that derives from ancient wisdom teachings. I have studied a bit in this area, and find the insights to be fascinating with deep application to the visual, as well as the healing arts.
Photography for me has always been a medium for self-discovery, not just self-expression, and in this sense engaging in image making is a form of personal healing. Making use of the esoteric teachings on the energetics of color can enrich our image-making process and open new doors of discovery, self-expression and healing.
The study of physics tells us that light expresses in a spectrum of frequencies, or vibrations, each having it’s own properties that we perceive as color. To me, its a simple progression to understand that the frequencies or vibratory qualities of different colors would have different energetic properties or effects on the human psyche and even on the physiology.
Remember, there is an intimate connection between Mind, Body & Spirit, so the energetic qualities of light and colors would naturally have an impact on all aspects of who we are as human beings. Many of the healing arts make use of colors of light, even for example with modern cold laser modalities that use different colors of cold laser light for different healing intentions.
So, let’s take a look at some of the ancient wisdom teachings about the energetic properties of color, and their impact on human consciousness. I’ve included my photos as illustrative examples with 6 colors. Read the captions for the colors & related qualities.
Perhaps we can explore this model with our color photography and see if the images we create might elicit viewer responses that on a very subtle level, generate the associated qualities in our emotions or awareness?
Deja Vu or Wake Up Call?
May 1, 2016
Since childhood I have had occasional experiences of Deja Vu, where it seems that every aspect of a moment in time is an exact repeat of something I have previously experienced. The Crosby, Stills & Nash song and album of the same name was a favorite of mine as it gave me some sense that I was not alone in this experience. Through many decades of meditation practice, I was convinced that it was a glimpse into the inherent timelessness and Oneness of all creation, giving the experience a spiritual overtone.
This past week, the experience took on a whole new character when it started while I was on a cell phone call with a work colleague from my screened porch at home. As was typical, I began losing the ability to communicate, even though I was still conscious. I remember saying “OK” several times, but the next thing I knew I was talking to Emergency Medical Technicians and getting whisked by ambulance to Mission Hospitals here in Asheville.
Luckily my colleague, author, Melanie Polkosky is a Ph.D. in Neuropsychology and a Speech Language Pathologist. She recognized something was wrong, stayed on the call and got our company HR Director to contact 911. The ambulance was arriving in less than 30 minutes from the start of the blackout.
That was on Monday afternoon, and I spent the next 4 days in hospital undergoing EEG, MRI brain scans and CT scans. This all culminated in having a Vertebroplasty procedure to repair compression fractures in two vertebra from falling during the blackout, and diagnosis of a petit mal seizure of which the Deja Vu experience is considered the “halo” or precursor.
Well, it’s good to know what’s been going on a few times each year for most of my life, and be able to take advantage of the best of medical technologies to prevent further complications or occurrences. It’s also turning out to be a wake up call of how sacred and special life is, and the importance of setting my priorities to what matters most to me (emphasis on ME).
The images in this post were taken the morning after returning home, spending several blissful hours in my own backyard doing what matters to me the most — connecting with, visualizing and capturing the mysterious beauty of the Natural world on camera. Somehow, I feel the experience has given me a deeper connection, and a better hit ratio in capturing the inner Spirit of Nature in the frame of my images. I’m interested to hear if these images speak to my readers as they do me.
NOTE: All blog photos are available for purchase. Just click on the photo to be taken to my SmugMug shopping cart.
Historic Charleston in Infrared
April 11, 2016
This week, I’m sharing a few favorite images made in the historic downtown area of Charleston with my infrared-converted Fuji X-E2 mirrorless camera. Our trip in early March was with fellow photographers, Steve and Jenny Johnston, who live in Charlotte NC, and travel often to the Charleston area.
The featured image is a Bed & Breakfast at 2 Meeting Street, the corner of South Battery. It turns out that the house is owned by distant relatives of Steve’s, having been purchased in 1946 by his great Aunt and transferred to one of her nephews when she died in 1981. To make it even more interesting, Steve and Jenny spent the first night of their honeymoon at the B&B!
I wanted to capture an image of the house that conveyed a feeling of Charleston tourism and history. By waiting patiently, I finally got my chance when a couple paused at the corner to check their map simultaneously with one of the many horse-drawn carriages coming into the scene.
I’ve been thinking lately about ways we can draw our viewer into our images and hold their attention. I find that I am drawn to photos that tell a bit of story, or provide elements to spark my imagination. Even in many of my Nature images, I try to include sufficient context around the hero, or main subject to give the viewer an imaginary world they can step into.
If you are at all involved in putting your artistry out into the world via online or print media, you no doubt have learned how valuable story can be in building and sustaining a following.
I’m working to do the same with my blog and photo gallery site! I hope you will subscribe via the signup form on the Home page, or at the end of this post. I welcome your comments in the form at the end of each post as well. Do you find the photos in this post give you something to spark your imagination, or give you a sense of being there?