I’ve been thinking about what it really means to have meaning & gesture in my photography. How do I relate to the scene? What does the scene say to me? What does the entire scene mean? Gesture, I think, is more than just how a living subject looks at the camera because it’s about expression in the end; it’s about how the gesture of the subject looks in the scene. Meaning comes out of how we compose using colour (or not) and what the scene ‘says’ to me and what it possibly ‘says’ to others; like when I was out photographing birds at a local conservatory, it’s how the animals stare into the camera AND what they are doing as they look into the camera & scene. It doesn’t take a professional to do this…It takes a love for photography & the scene in front of us to get this done, and we don’t always get it right the first time.
The scene above obviously includes gesture because of how the bird is looking at the camera with some food in its mouth; it’s as if the bird is asking me why on earth would I want to bother it while it’s eating just to get a shot. The background behind the shot is pretty simple: I was trying out a different way of approaching something with different gear and I wanted to see how I could handle the small, fist-sized birds on the first go. I wanted to see what I learned over the years to see if indeed I had really improved at all; for me, it was about analyzing my approach and seeing if I could really get something decent in it. While it was gently refined in Lightroom (which I hope gets a post-Christmas update soon), it was about the story of a bird feeding and a photographer disturbing it; that’s the meaning behind it.
To an extent, photography really isn’t about what level we’re at (professional, amateur, or hobbyist), but it’s about how we pursue it; it’s about how much we care for what we’re photographing. Inspiration comes with caring, or at least that’s how I understand it; we’re called to take care of the world around us and we’ve all mucked it up badly, but through photography we can give a shot of a specific moment in time to someone else and inspire them. A photographer, by a decent definition, is someone who takes photographs for the love of it & to inspire, not just someone who does it as a paying job or career with expensive gear & possibly massive debt.
Gesture & meaning come through in a photograph when we put them there, choosing to include what makes the shot, when we make the photograph. How do we put them there? We put them there by watching the scene and being ready to capture what we believe the scene is saying to us. The photograph above may seem like nothing more than chance to me, but it was a result of waiting for it to unfold, moving around & watching the birds in the conservatory go about their lives (and me ducking when they left droppings while flying around). In the end, gesture & meaning help to inspire, and that’s what I’m at least trying to strive for.