Thursday, February 23, 2012

photography: the art of expression

To my blog friends, I hope you will have patience with me. I’ve been teaching a one-on-one photography class for my friend’s high school-aged son. I gathered photos for the lesson and was going to put them in a FB album or on a photo-sharing gallery. However, I’ve decided to share it here because I thought it might be fun to share some of my ‘art’ photos with all of you. Before the photos, comes the lesson, feel free to skip over it if you are not my student.

Expressive photography is to documentary photography what poetry is to technical writing. What is visually recorded is secondary to the metaphor that the image becomes. By taking a picture that goes beyond a beautiful but external rendering of a subject, the photographer moves beyond being a technician or a craftsman and enters the realm of art. Of course, when you move into the realm of expression and metaphor, it becomes easier for your audience to draw their own conclusions and you can be sure that their conclusions will not always match what you intended to say.

In an article titled Photography as Expression, Phil Douglas writes:
“Expressive photography is based upon three important principles: Abstraction, Incongruity ,and Human Values. Abstraction removes literal, descriptive clutter and hones an image down to its essence, encouraging imaginative responses. Incongruity presents elements that seem to be at odds with their context, creating contrasts and juxtapositions that stimulate both the emotions and the imagination. Human values convey the emotions, beliefs, traditions and knowledge that we understand and share as humans.”

This is where your preceding lessons come into play. Many of the lessons covered earlier will enable to you remove the descriptive clutter that Douglas writes about (think about perspective, for instance). Incongruity is a concept that your Mom understands well as it is one often used in poetry. If you can make the commonplace strange to your viewer, they will take a second look and become involved and begin to explore a new place with you. The interesting thing about human values is that while they are shared, everyone sees them a bit differently because everyone has a different perspective since they stand in a unique place and time that separates them from everyone else in human history. Your job is to convey human values in such a way that people begin to see things at least a little bit as you do.

You assignment is to create at least one photo that you think expresses something beyond what the image is about. In your last assignment, you created a one to one value where you illustrated written text in a literal manner. In this assignment, you can take the photo and push it beyond literal meaning. In addition, I want you to pick one of the examples that I have provided below and write an essay on what the photo expresses and what photographic techniques were used (or may have been used) to create the end result.

Aubade literally means a song or poem to greet the dawn.

According to Merriam-Webster the word continuum means: a coherent whole characterized as a collection, sequence, or progression of values or elements varying by minute degrees.

The Essential Point
A person who is gifted sees the essential point and leaves the rest as surplus. Thomas Carlyle
Bringing it Back
"Nothing is more like a soul than a bee. It goes from flower to flower as a soul goes from star to star, and brings back honey as a soul brings back light." Victor Hugo

Beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light. John Ruskin

So Much Darkness
John Herschel, astronomer and son of the brilliant William Herschel, once observed “In the midst of so much darkness, we ought to open our eyes as wide as possible to any glimpse of light, and utilize whatever twilight may be accorded us, to make out, though but indistinctly, the forms that surround us.”

The moment the word "why" crosses our lips, we are doing theology. Carolyn Custis James

Inside Plato's Cave

Fire and Rain

Life in a Fishbowl

To Make Lemonade

The Groom's Flowers

In the Dark Shadow of the Tree

The Same Thread
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. Lao Tzu

Absolute silence leads to sadness. It is the image of death. Jean Jacques Rousseau
by Melissa Howard
An incandescent bulb
hangs in the laundry room.

I wish to hold you
to the light and confirm
that you are growing.

Perhaps I would find
an egg laced with veins,
a knob of a heart inside,
and the thrashing shadows
of wings ready to spread.

There could be ruptures
darkening the surface, ready to crack
and let you lie in the sun with me
until your feathers are dry.

Or I might discover a clot of inertia
crammed in the narrow end
because you weren’t turned
daily and allowed to grow
in different directions.

And you remain there
until apathy rots you
and the lingering smell of sulfur
repulses those who approach.
A Steady Eye
Neither the sun nor death can be looked at with a steady eye Francois De La Rochefoucauld
He Never Felt Sorry for Himself
“I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.”

Separation Anxiety

The ABC of Dying

This is what age must learn about:
The ABC of dying.
The going, yet not going,
The loving and leaving,
And the unbearable knowing and knowing.

E.B. White

Through a Glass Darkly
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 1Corinthians 13:12

Not Made for This World
“If I find myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis


  1. Melissa, the child and the rosary are just stunning. You know I adore your B&W shots-so well done. olive

  2. I wish I was your student.
    I think it is so great that you are sharing your gift with those keen to learn.

  3. The beauty of these photos...leaves me speechless. You are truly gifted my friend.

  4. Wow. What a gift you are sharing.

  5. Ooh, love looking at your photos and I appreciate your willingness to share them with us. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder! Hugs and blesings, Cindy

  6. Thank you so much or sharing these photos. You truly have a gift.