The Visual Language

Light within, light without

Learning a language is hard.  Figuring out what each sound means, how they relate to each other, which sounds to use when.  This all takes time and practice.  At least when we see, that is simple.  We just see, right? Things are in front of us, around us – easy as.

However, when we aspire to be photographers we need to learn a visual language.  We need to learn light and tones and intensity.  We need to see relationships between shade and light, between form and colours.

Our early shots are ‘happy snaps’ – pictures of things that catch our eye, of family and friends, tourist snaps and of days out.  But as we slip deeper into the addiction that photography becomes, we start to want more from out photos and we start to learn a visual language.

Unlike other languages, this one is intensely individual. The elements are the same – light and form, colour and space.  But with a photographer’s visual language, the expression is different.  Photographs will not be exactly the same.  We use similar tools, but each photograph will ultimately be totally individual.  Capable of being understood, but not completely replicated by another.

The same photographer will not take the same photograph on succeeding days – the language has changed, been modified by the previous photograph and the photographer is looking for different expression this time.  The light will change, the position, the internal vision of the photographer will develop.

For in this visual language, the photographer is using an external language – that imposed by the sun, the lighting, the clouds, the natural and man-made world – to express an internal vision.

The external becomes internal becomes external again when seen on the computer or in a print.  The photographer has used a special language to create and convey something from deep within. The viewer reads this language and enters the internal world of the photographer.

Knowing this, the photographer must make choices.  To retain the internal world as private, only for close family and friends, or to light the the internal??  To shoot ‘happy snaps’ or to express part of the soul?

Posted by DeborahH

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