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How to add "meaning" to a photograph


ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
7 Sep 2013 2:43PM
Following on from an interesting thread where Jools ended up quoting someone stating that photos should have "meaning".

I think we'd all agree that a photo with "meaning" is a good thing.

But what practical steps can we take to create or add "meaning" to our work ?

It's one thing to say "that's a very pretty shot, but it has no 'meaning'", but it doens't help the photographer learn how to add "meaning"

Also, do different topics lend themselves to "meaning" better?

Are some subjects always going to be devoid of "meaning"?

Maybe most importantly -what is "meaning", how do we spot it when it happens and how do we create it if its not there?

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robthecamman 3 1.4k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 2:50PM
a photo is about telling a story in theory.but agree not easy to do Smile
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 3:19PM

Quote:I think we'd all agree that a photo with "meaning" is a good thing.


The difficulty then being that meaning itself is different to every person.

What one person may see as a pretty photo of some mountains for instance, to me could have a different meaning as I have been there and spent a night freezing my butt off underneath it, to another person they could have skied down it and to them it has yet another meaning, to a mountain rescue worker it could be a pain in the backside and have yet another meaning to them. Each could see something completely different in the photo. Some people dont like the outdoors and countryside much and could see it having no meaning at all.

Whether a photo has commercial attraction again is yet a different subject but on which was part of the last discussion, if a photographer goes out with the intention of selling their work as some of us do then the initial decision of what to photograph it and how could be taken with the aim of pleasing as wide an audience as possible therefore ending up going down the pretty landscape line.

Its on of those subjects that you cant answer and thankfully so. Its why i love photography !
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 3:34PM
'Meaning' is just another b******t word. I prefer 'significant' which, like 'meaning', has no value but sounds more important. Other good valueless words are 'quintessential', and 'contrasting' as a verb but there are many others, depth, profound, organic, negative space, intimate, bold, resonance, transcendent, evocative, layered for example.

If you learn all the necessary b******t words, you no longer have to go to a gallery or exhibition and just look at the pictures, you can talk about them to other people and the more gullible of them will be believe you understand something they do not or are more intellectual than they are. The corollary to that is that anyone with half a brain and a thought process of their own will see you for the pretentious **** that you are.

A photo with meaning is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is a photo about which someone has said something meaningless.
joolsb 10 27.1k 38 Switzerland
7 Sep 2013 3:57PM

Quote:A photo with meaning is not a good thing or a bad thing, it is a photo about which someone has said something meaningless.


Why so cynical?

Have you never taken a photograph with 'meaning', then? I thought you were/are a photojournalist so if you've never taken a meaningful photograph I guess you must have been on the celeb circuit taking vapid pix of young girlies showing a little bit too much flesh...
pulsar69 10 1.6k 6 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 4:06PM
I am not sure it is actually possible to say something meaningless is it ?
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 4:14PM

Quote:so if you've never taken a meaningful photograph I guess you must have been on the celeb circuit taking vapid pix of young girlies showing a little bit too much flesh...


No, I've covered wars and famine and all sorts as my web site will testify. After decades as a professional I have heard so much meaningless drivel talked about pictures where I know what happened or the circumstances of them that I have little regard for the thoughts of experts.

Shakespeare said that there is no good or evil except that thinking makes it so. Criticism of photography accords with that. It is meaningless to say a picture has 'meaning'. If someone thinks it has meaning, let them say what the meaning is.

Does anyone remember John Lennon's song 'I Am The Walrus'? He wrote words of meaningless drivel in order to confound the music critics with their relentless attachment of 'meaning' and 'significance' to his music. Let the pretentious twats find meaning in that, he thought. And they did!


Quote:I am not sure it is actually possible to say something meaningless is it ?


He who digs deepest, deepest digs? Or the words of many of our politicians?
ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
7 Sep 2013 4:23PM
so no tops tips on how to add meaning to a photo of a tree then?

Wink
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 4:25PM

Quote:so no tops tips on how to add meaning to a photo of a tree then?


Well, you could show its roots, I suppose Wink
ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
7 Sep 2013 4:29PM
how about a coke can in the foreground, as a commentary on the degradation of the countryside by the invasion of townies Wink
lemmy 7 2.0k United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 4:31PM

Quote:so no tops tips on how to add meaning to a photo of a tree then?


Significant, I would say Wink
joolsb 10 27.1k 38 Switzerland
7 Sep 2013 4:38PM

Quote:It is meaningless to say a picture has 'meaning'.


Why? A snapshot of a child riding a bike, say, has meaning to the parents of that child (it might be the first time without stabilisers or some other eventů)

Whilst an image intrinsically has no meaning (it is, after all, just pigment on paper or pixels on a screen) that doesn't mean that a meaning cannot be assigned to it either by the creator of the image or by the viewer (or both).

There are many examples of artists having fun at the expense of critics (Duchamp's urinal - even Ian Anderson taking a pop at the pretentiousness of 'prog' rock with the album, 'Thick as a Brick') but there are many more where artists use their imagery to make a point. What about Dorothea Lange's 'Migrant Mother'? Are you telling me that is meaningless bollox? Or Don McCullin's famous image of the shell-shocked US soldier? All just pigment on paper and arty nonsense?
arhb e2
7 2.5k 68 United Kingdom
7 Sep 2013 4:39PM
I've been asked on several occasions now, "What's he doing?", when I show them the image below,
to a point where I now have a story to tell them about what he's doing.
So I think the character has added meaning to a car shot.


ade_mcfade e2
10 15.1k 216 England
7 Sep 2013 4:53PM
parked up to take a piss?

Wink
RavenTepes 5 198 United States
7 Sep 2013 4:54PM
To me, any photo will have meaning...except for many school or business type portraits...It just depends on the person behind the lens and what it means to him or her.

I try to capture emotion. I try to take images where even if it may not exactly tell a story, it'll bring about an emotional response.

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