Still… (Reflections on Photography)

Man Underwater by Ana Vesna

Man Underwater by Anna Vesna

I’ve always appreciated art. My brother’s an incredibly talented illustrator, and I spent almost three years working with Vimeo, where I watched films every day and attended offline screenings regularly. I was profoundly affected by the ability of motion pictures to move people, as redundant as that sounds. They can make you laugh, cry, cringe, and most of all: think.

But since coming to Shutterstock two years ago, spending countless hours among 24 million images, and then going home to my own DSLR, I’ve developed a deep appreciation for the still image.

Portrait of a Girl by Aleshyn Andrei

Portrait of a Girl by Aleshyn Andrei

The sands of New Mexico, by Sally Scott.

The sands of New Mexico, by Sally Scott.

With all methods of re-presenting something – whether it’s with film, illustration, or literature – the creator has the burden of delivering a whole experience with something less dimensional than real-life. But with still photography, the captor has just a single frame.

A single frame to captivate the viewer, and tell a story. Some images are stronger than others at this. They go beyond the still and have a presence that transcends space.

Closeup Image of a Boy by Sascha Burkard

Closeup Image of a Boy by Sascha Burkard

Detail shot of a cat's paw, by Nailia Schwarz.

Detail shot of a cat’s paws, by Nailia Schwarz.

Of course there’s context in every photo, but to make it feel alive, and to contradict the parameters of the medium while challenging the viewer’s beliefs about the reality around them, is something very few artists can do. Art of this caliber strikes deep emotional chords within us, and if we’re lucky, changes how we experience life all together.

To understand what I mean by this, just think about any iconic photo in history: man on the moon, the Times Square kiss, Katrina… Just a few words can evoke so much emotion about what those images are – what they re-present.

Cambodian woman cooks by natural light.

Cambodian woman cooks by natural light.

These are just a few of the photos I’ve come across that exemplify exactly that: they capture a moment, challenge the restrictions of the medium and create an energy – an emotional charge – that heats up the space between the viewer and the photo. They tell stories that are both beautiful and transformative. This in my mind, is truly art.

It’s also what makes me want to travel to every nook and cranny in the world with nothing but my DSLR…

Baby.

Baby.

Bank of the Ganga River in India, by Anna Vesna.

Bank of the Ganga River in India, by Anna Vesna.

For more of my favorite emotional images, click here.

Note: As much as I love film and photography, full disclosure that my technical knowledge of the field is limited. I’m not a professional photographer, nor have I been formally schooled in what makes art art, per se. What I do know is what I feel when I see an amazing work of art – and this goes far beyond composition, lighting and simple subject matter. (Though those attributes undeniably play a vital role in making any image emotional.) This post is my attempt to reflect on this ability and admire the work of a few very talented artists.

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