Master photographer Paul Strand October 16, 1890 – March 31, 1976, chose to go to France in exile because of the anti-socialist McCarthyism in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s. This was due to his socialist orientations that appeared unaccepted at that time. Living in France without begin able to speak French caused him to use his photography to speak…to communicate.
For several years now, I too have been using photography as a second language. I have noticed that when I embrace this way of communicating while in the process of subject capture, the results are significantly different from those captured with other perspectives and approaches. I even feel the difference internally. The interest, energy, passion, for the work is so much stronger. The internal feelings and external results are maintainable throughout the total workflow from vision to presentation.
The main thing I have always wanted to communicate to and with others is to encourage civility and a sense of calm in this sometimes harmful and noisy world. Many times, amid offering my work in art shows people come into my booth saying, “We just came back to calm down.” This is said without any need for me to say even one spoken word.
Capture with me for a moment. What if we were to try to communicate photographically the meaning of love, hate, passion, apathy, confidence, fear, happiness or sadness? How would we capture and thus communicate the very essence of who we are as an individual? I have noticed as well that when I am overly preoccupied with other life issues, the photographs I make seem to image that preoccupation. Maybe even the subject of my preoccupation! I feel it is true that no matter what image is made by the photographer, it is a tell, it is divulging a self-truth.
When it comes to photographic approaches, technical manipulations, subject matter choices or the metaphysics of imaging or making art, I believe those aspects to be only my personal dialect of my second language.
I now answer the question, “do you speak a second language,” by saying yes. My second language is photographic art.
The next time you go about your workflow pretend whole-heartily to be unable to speak or write. Tell somebody something through your photographic language. See if you notice a difference in how you feel and see?