The photographic image has two sides it is necessary to recognize in order to be able to bring out the best of the medium: The outside and the inside. There is always an interacting force between the two, but we, as photographers, aren’t always aware of it during the capturing process. The outside being the visible world we capture with the camera, and the inside being the perceiving and shaping creativity of the photographer. Only when we understand the interaction between the two and understand the necessity to make use of it, are we able to create photography beyond mere reproduction.
Most photographs we take as if the camera was a notebook; we capture something so we are able to memorize the event, we collect memories like a dairy of images to share with friends or family, or just for ourselves. Of course, we still make decisions on composition, what to included within the frame, on perspective and technical settings, but mostly unconsciously. Usually we are not very aware of our own presence in the picture taking process. However, when we want to heighten the photographic expression to more than pure memory collecting or reproduction, we need to be aware of ourselves, what we want to express and, in so doing, find a balance between ourselves and the outside that makes the final image transcend both.
In his book Why Photography Matters, Jerry L. Thompson writes about the interaction between the two sides. He says: «When photography is at its best, I am suggesting […] there exists a balance between the outside and the inside. When photography is at its best, these two elements cooperate as in a dialectic: one side presents a proposition, the other counters it; a new proposition emerges, one also countered in a similar fashion, and on and on as a progressively refined result appears, something neither partner in the dialectic could have produced.»
What Thompson really says is that when we in the photographic process consciously make use of the balance between the outside world and our inside as we perceive the world, the resulting image is of a higher order – or transcending – what either alone could be.
The world exists with infinite possibilities without any hierarchy and without any emotions attached to it or even with any cause and effect. However, when the photographer captures a single event he or she imposes his or her vision upon the world. The photographer makes the elements of the world fit together. He or she creates some kind of order of the world – and attaches emotional values to the event being photographed. That is when photography becomes at its best.
This balance has many names. We talk about the photographer’s vision or we talk about intent; what does the photograph intend with her or his photo. When we start becoming aware of this, we start to negotiate this balance between the outside and the inside – and our photography start to emerge as stronger, more personal and more important.
Are you aware of this dialectic process when you photograph?