Letting Your Imagination Speak

rooftops, photograph

“Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination; do not become the slave of your model.’

Vincent van Gogh

As an artist I have a double-edged relationship with my subjects.

On the one hand, I look to them for inspiration. On the other hand, I make them yield to my imagination. This give and take exchange should permeate the entire creative process, from the moment a piece is started until the finishing touches are applied.

I pay special attention to van Gogh’s admonition to not become the slave of my model. As a photographer it is all too easy to find an interesting subject, capture it’s image and consider it done. Doing so tips the scales in favor of the subject (model) at the expense of the imagination.

A subject with no imagination is boring, imagination without a subject is too personal. A balance is needed. Sometimes a subject that is too impressive on it’s own can dominate the conversation – consider how many wonderful paintings have been made of very mundane subjects or how uninteresting cliched photographs of Yosemite have become.

Once I’ve captured an image, the give and take begins, the dialogue with the subject starts and the imagination must be given its voice. I try to make sure it is heard.

5 responses to “Letting Your Imagination Speak

  1. You have eloquently captured one of my real challenges as a photographer. You have to do more than take what the subject gives you. Seeing the scene is just step one. What you do to create the image is the art part.

    I’ll try to remember Van Gogh’s thoughts along with Van Cornelis.

  2. Part of the real dichotomy in nature photography is exactly what you describe, purely documentary versus something of personal expression. Is showing a beautiful place or thing for what it is enough? Sometimes I wonder if that depends on how much exposure it already has.

  3. I really agree with you, Bob, yet some of us (myself included) that are making a living from their stock photography have no choice but to make the documentary image, albeit one that is the most creative angle/composition it can be. But if I just stopped there, my soul would not be filled up with continued joy with photography. Exploring beyond the image, letting it speak to you as you say, is so enriching. I have been exploring a new realm with my photography, where I am trying new approaches to how I treat my images after I’ve made them, and it’s very exciting. Thanks for your thoughtful insights on this blog. Keep ’em coming!

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