What use are techniques without emotion?

Whenever I set out to create an image, I don’t let the camera, framing, shutter speed or any technical component influence or dictate to me what’s going to happen. What I focus on first is the meaning and the emotional connection for the picture. How the subject within the image will come across, and what that particular landscape at that particular moment will show to the audience.

A photograph isn’t much without an emotional component. The picture isn’t there to showcase technique (and if it is then it’s imbued with a cold, surgical rationality which is an art form I don’t have much interest in). A good photo tells a story, forms part of an emotional journey that aims to build a connection between artist and audience, and from there hopefully establish something interesting and thoughtful. I want my audience to see my work and feel something, and not just an appreciation for the technique.

There are lots of budding photographers out there (there’s probably something of the artist in all of us) who spend their time focusing on technique and process. Lots of the information and advice on photography that’s out there highlights how to take photos and what can be achieved with the technology that’s available. As far as I’m concerned, the most important advice for the photographer is not how to take a photo, but to understand why they want to capture particular moments. In my opinion, photography, like all art forms, is about beauty and emotional expression above all else, and the technical aspects come second. After all, having a grasp of the technical and skillful side of an art form can only take you so far, after which there needs to be something else, that speaks to an audience who aren’t necessarily versed in the intricacies of the medium.

Think of your favourite works of art, whether with that be a visual, written, textile, or musical expression of creativity. What is it that the true masters and visionaries, our most brilliant artists and creators, bring to their work? It’s never just raw technique or talent. Their work is emotionally compelling, even if it means something different to everyone, and even if we can’t know exactly what was intended. We, the audience, draw something beautiful and powerful and maybe even indescribable from their creations, and use them to introduce something meaningful into our own lives too.

For me, what keeps me coming back to the camera even when I feel dejected, is the pursuit of that emotional connection with the audience. Not to show them a technical masterpiece or a particularly clever composition, but to show what I feel, and to let the image speak for me. No amount of technique can replace that, or fake it.