Visual Metaphor, Imagination & Story

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams

Visual Metaphor

Visual Metaphor

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

Imagination

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

Story

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.

Story in Nature

Story in Nature

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