Energy, Enthusiasm and Emotion

En fisker med dagens fangst

Some years 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.

44 thoughts on “Energy, Enthusiasm and Emotion

    1. I don’t think the three E’s is a generally used term, only something that Avedon came up with. But I am not surprised that you are already guided by those three values in your work without actually knowing the term,

  1. The importance of energy became obvious to me after my recent move. For nearly two months, I rarely had picked up the camera. Once I was settled again and went out to shoot for the first time,my skills had seriously degraded. It was an astonishing experience, but it proved the truth of what you’ve said here time and time again: shooting every day, or as often possible, is critical. Only by devoting time and energy will we improve.

    As for emotion, one of our best poets is in agreement with you. In a letter to Louis Untermeyer, Robert Frost wrote, “A poem begins as a lump in the throat, a sense of wrong, a homesickness, a lovesickness. It is a reaching-out toward expression; an effort to find fulfillment. A complete poem is one where an emotion finds the thought and the thought finds the words.” I’m not quite sure how to phrase it, but the same surely is true for a complete photograph.

  2. boring photography is my rebellion, which definitely does have emotion behind it haha… love love the dude and his fish, the lighting is awesome

  3. The final paragraph makes a particularly important point. The photographer’s own first response to a subject is likely be, to some degree, an emotional one. And it is the emotional energy that stimulates the creativity. The thinking process follows. Similarly, the viewer’s initial response will generally be an emotional one – a ‘gut reaction’. It is the ‘what happens next’ that makes demands on the skills of the photographer.

  4. Your article is so nice like on point cause for in the coming years its creativity , idea and your talent that the people are paying for cause if you talk about the texts in the books artificial intelligence is there for it.

  5. We humans have such a range of emotions….I think there’s room for infinite variations, but it’s often not so obvious how well an image communicates the emotion behind it. Something to think about. 🙂 There’s no question that those three “E’s” are critical ingredients! Thanks Otto!

  6. Thanks Otto for the mention of my simple blog in your excellent and wqell written post! Yes, I still remember the three “E’s” concept, in fact I’m just back home from a few days in the Alps to recharge my batteries in order to get more Energy for this year! And I’m working on the other two E 🙂
    Sorry for late answer,I was “disconneted” !

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