I’ve heard over and over that photography is all about capturing light: that without the right or perfect lighting, an image is simply blah and boring. The golden hour (around sunrise and sunset) is the perfect light – evoking the whole “ride off into the sunset” feel. In fact, the measure of a good photographer is often how well they can work without the “perfect” light – for example, wedding photographers. Capturing good images in a dark reception hall or church is a challenge.
Recently, I’ve started playing with the opposite of light – shadow. If you really want to get technical, I guess I’m still working with light because I’m trying to manipulate just where the light goes, and how much of my subject matter actually shows. Still, it’s easier for me to think of as photographing shadow – a negative space, if you will.
I think I lost a little of the drive to explore in college – I had it drilled into me over and over that the correct exposure is king. A well-lit, well exposed image was always preferable to a haphazard, iffy type of negative. Being the perverse, independent person that I am, some of my favorite images from that time spent in college are the ones that were accidents.
I do admit that perhaps I simply didn’t hear everything my instructors said. Many of my fellow students were experimenting with light and shadow and producing really good, evocative images. I, however, fell flat on my face every time I tried something evocative.
I probably still am.
But, that reality aside, I’m trying it again. While I’m probably not producing the best images I could, there’s something moody and interesting in an image with lots of shadow and less detail. My Project Joy series (aside from my grandmother’s images) is playing around with that: how far can I fall into shadow without losing the essence of the image? That isn’t my primary concern and certainly not my concept for that series, but I do think that the absence of light provides a mood that I wouldn’t be able to capture normally.
Let me make it clear: I’m not talking about careless lighting or bad lighting. Everything I shoot is deliberate – I always try to avoid the whole snapshot thing and actually think about what I’m doing (the key word there is try.) I’m not a big fan of poorly shot, poorly executed “artsy” images passed off as art – and I won’t put out that kind of image myself.
That said, here’s a sample of my experiments – does the lack of shadow detail help or hinder the image?