A coherent work of art employs the fundamental elements and principals of line, shape, texture, value, balance, focal point, proportions, scale, illusion of space and rhythm. A photographer can greatly control how a subject is perceived by thoughtfully and intentionally manipulating these formal qualities of design, artistically.
Just as a musician or a painter renders a particular style by which their work is easily recognized at a glance, so it is with the photographer.
Take for instance Richard Avedon, his images are highly influenced by his person. When you see one of his photographs, you know right away it is Avedon’s work. There is something very naked and raw about his images causing his subjects to appear stripped of all masks and barriers. His images seem to reveal a deeper sense of humanity, intense, accurate and personal. One of Avedon’s famous quotes (found on brainyquotes.com) reads, “All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth.” This philosophy is clear throughout his work.
In Avedon’s images, it feels as though he is looking directly into his subject’s person as they peer back into him, like a mirror. His photos not only communicate a feeling of who the subject is and what they struggle with deep inside, but also an understanding of who the photographer is while capturing the subject. Avedon’s apparent presence in his photographed subjects brought to mind something I learned when my first child was born, called “mirroring”. Mirroring is the behavior in which one person subconsciously imitates the gesture, speech pattern, or attitude of another. It often occurs in social situations, particularly in the company of close friends or family.
Avedon’s image ‘Ronald Fischer,- Beekeeper’, feels very much like a glimpse or perhaps mirror into Avedon’s own soul. The conflicted look in the model’s eyes, as though he wants to be known, transparent, and yet, almost arrogant and withdrawn. A dramatic, disturbing, nearly deathly and creepy image. It appears to betray something of a personal turmoil within the photographer, exposing itself through his work. His images display a masterful control over what he has intended to capture, scripting the impact he wants the viewer to walk away with.
There is also something very dramatic about his work, and one gets the impression that he was a histrionic individual. His inner drama influenced his photographs and aroused a rough equivalent within his subjects.
I have only highlighted one photographer here, but in studying historical photographers’ images...I can clearly see how each photographer leaves an unmistakably personal imprint on their work. As mentioned above, we as artists take on our own styles and it is very much reflected in our work. We must remember that we have a responsibility to our viewers and subjects to portray accurate and honest impressions. When we are able to connect with our subjects and see in them the same struggles of humanity we recognize within ourselves, that seeing becomes a beautiful language, and our images speak powerfully!