Energy, Enthusiasm and Emotion

En fisker med dagens fangst

Some time ago my blogger friend Robert K. Rehmann in a post on his eminent blog (the quiet photographer) quoted a famous photographer who had been a student of late Richard Avedon. This photographer had once said that Avedon used to tell his students that it was not possible to achieve good results in photography without the three E’s. Those three E’s were energy, enthusiasm and emotions. Ever since I read about them on Robert’s blog I have been pondering over these three E’s.

Needless to say Avedon himself was known for all three characteristics. He was supposed to have the energy, enthusiasm and relentless stride of a 30-year-old all up to his late years (he passed away at the age of 81). And throughout all of his work his emotional impact is very evident.

So what is it about these three E’s? In many ways they sum up everything that is needed for anyone pursuing photography as a way of expression – whether professionally or just for the fun of it. Everything in terms of personal qualities.

First of all it takes a lot of hard work to become good as a photographer, in other words you need the energy to be able to develop yourself as a photographer. If you don’t put in the work, you will never reach your full potential as a photographer – no matter how talented you are. I have written about this before (Creativity is Work), and as I said back then; we all have creativity within us, but most of us need to dig it out. That’s also where enthusiasm comes in. Without enthusiasm you won’t find the energy to put in the work that is needed. At the same time enthusiasm is also about the necessity to let go, to lose control, take chances or just experiment in the creative process. Enthusiasm as in passion is what is driving us forward, that is where our wish to be spontaneous, to be free and joyful in our creative expression, comes from. This directly relates to the Greek understanding of Eros as the raw energy of our enthusiasm and passion. Energy and enthusiasm.

Finally; emotions. Without emotional engagement in our work, our photography will always become plain boring. In order to keep the attention of the viewers a photograph – as all artistic work – needs to have an emotional impact. It needs to speak to the viewer on some emotional level. And this emotional impact starts with our own emotional engagement. It starts with our own genuine interest in the subject in front of the camera – and then being able to convey that in the final photograph. Without it we have nothing to say, our photography becomes empty playing with forms and graphics.

87 thoughts on “Energy, Enthusiasm and Emotion

  1. This is true about everything. If we substituted any other word for ‘photography’ it would still resonate. There is work in writing, professional sports, playing music, painting – as much as we’d all like to think it is just a gift that flows without effort. I do have a question about photography though. Is there a camera for beginners that you would recommend? I’ve looked at several and the more I contemplate, the more confused I get. Thanks Otto.

    1. That is almost an impossible question to answer, Renee, because it all depends on what and how you going to use the camera. There is no such thing as the perfect camera – not even for beginners. Most brands delivers quality nowadays, so it’s more about finding a camera with features you like, that feels good in your hand and works well with you. One camera worth considering is Panasonic Lumix SZ7. It’s inexpensive, it’s easy to use but still have enough features to expand with. A more expensive alternative is Panasonic Lumix ZS20. Hopefully this will help you get started at least…

      1. Thank you for that information. I will look into the Panasonic cameras today! Some of the others are so expensive that it is daunting to even consider, especially when all I have ever used is the point-and-shoot variety.

    1. I guess Richard Avedon wasn’t only a great photographer, he could make profound statements about the process of photographing.

  2. As always Otto, you have provided yet another valuable e – word to the process, encouragement. Thank you so much for your wonderful kindness and generosity!

  3. Your commentary offers simple and wise qualities to ponder as we record our visual landscape. Your own image is packed with the 3 e’s of the fisherman and the photographer. That confluence is exactly what you are suggesting.

  4. Well stated! As it is in all the arts. The fisherman in the photograph above seems to exemplify the three E’s.

  5. Good post, Otto. I can see the difference in my photos from when I am engaged…oh, another E..and have emotion about the subject matter. I think it definitely shows.

  6. It seems whenever I look at a photograph it is always about how it makes me feel. To capture the true essence of a subject you must be able to put across what they are feeling and make me feel it. It is a little like long ago when some people believed that a photo actually captured part of their soul. Perhaps if they had a good photographer they weren’t far off.

    1. Yes, a good photography is always about making the viewer (and the photographer in the first place) feel something, it doesn’t really matter what. And it’s a nice notion that a good photo captures the soul of the subject. I’ll remember that.

  7. You can change the word photographer to painter and it applies exactly. I’m taking a break reading your post while sitting in front of a five foot canvas – painting about music.

    1. As somebody else wrote it can be used for all aspects of life -.and certainly for other expressions of art. I hope the work with the five foot canvas has been going well. 🙂

  8. The photograph is perfect. That complementary purple sky / the pants are just the right value and intensity and size to balance your image perfectly!

  9. Hi Otto, I had a look through your photos. They are fab! I love the strength and emotions they transport. Stunning!

  10. Thanks for sharing this, Otto. I’ve written the three E’s down near my computer so I’ll remember them. They are so necessary in other areas of our lives and work, too!

  11. Otto, I can apply this principle you have so clearly described in any and all aspects of my life: my work, my family, my marriage, my friendships, my passions, everything!!! You’d make a great psycho-social guru!

  12. Excellent words, and a great photo too. People often describe art as play when it’s anything but, as you show here. Recently on BBC’s Countryfile, Julia Bradbury described an artist’s studio as a play room and was swiftly corrected. I don’t think they do it to be hurtful, it’s just that there’s a narrowing definition of what work is and what art is. We actually need a broad renaissance. I’m sure it’s coming. Thanks for the like.

    1. Thanks for returning to my blog, Ian. I think art is also about playfulness, but that certainly doesn’t describe the whole process. Art takes a lot of work and commitment, that’s for sure.

  13. I so needed to read this today–thank you so much for the reminder-especially the need to let go, to allow ourselves to make mistakes and experiment, experiment, experiment-Thank you!

  14. A beautifully atmospheric image, Otto, and another insprirationa piece of writing from you, too. Yes certainly, without those qualities, it would be difficult to get there in photography…

  15. Wonderful post, and an engaging image to go with it. Thank you, Otto. You always give me something to think about. 🙂

  16. Recently with some challenges in life my energy levels have dropped along with the enthusiasm and I really see the difference In my work. I need to work on myself to get out of this slump so the inspiration can flow freely again. Thanks for a great article!

    1. Well, Linda, a new lens might be fun get, but it’s not going to create good pictures all by itself. 😉 Thanks for stopping by.

  17. Always love to read your articles. You don’t write too much about technical skills but it’s more about how we need to engage with the subject that we wanted to photograph. About the passion. How to put our soul into our works.

    Yes, technical skills of photograph are important. But without give emotional engagement then our photos could only become empty playing with forms and graphics as you stated it above.

    Thank you very much for sharing this, Otto. 🙂

    1. I am indeed less concerned with technique than content in an image and its emotional impact. Passion is important. Good technique on its own never makes a good picture.

  18. By the way I just wanted to let you know that I’m having a problem with my WordPress which I am not able to like any posts directly in an article especially old articles that I just visited like yours now. 😦

  19. The man seems taller than the if, he was framed into that the woman leans dark clouds float..he got a knife and he holds fishes..but.. he doesn’t look tired..he didn’t catch those..just a pose.. 🙂

  20. I too will take these three words and write them down in a prominent place…they are really a great guide for all of daily life no matter what type of work or play one does. Thank you for the reminder !

    1. Richard Avedon was a great photographer in many ways, and both his photos and words influence people today, as these 3 E’s. Thanks for the comment, Karen Ann.

  21. Your last paragraph here is very thought provoking. It puts my feelings about photography into words.

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