How To Recognize Great Art Photography Part 3- Universal Theme
You've connected with the photograph. There's just something about it that intrigues you, holds you there, makes you want to look deeper into it, know it and understand it.
Let yourself "feel" the image. Are you there, in that moment?... perhaps standing on the edge of a shoreline, smelling water and sand, feeling a breeze and listening to sea gulls screeching against the soft roar of the waves. How do you feel? Lonely? Invigorated? Serene?
Or perhaps you stand looking at a naked child running towards you with smoke and destroyed buildings behind him. How do you feel?
What you are feeling is emotion felt by every other human being. But, how can a photograph do this?
A great photograph will hold a universal theme. A theme that every human being understands....love, loneliness, vulnerability, anger, destruction, beauty....We connect.
When you look at that photograph, you see what it is a picture of. But, ask yourself, what is this photograph about? What do you really see? Death? Compassion? Hate? Forgiveness?
Go further and "Read" the photograph.
I once was given a photograph of an elderly man, who had taken a picture of himself wedged between a chair beside him and a chair in front him. Behind him was a bookshelf tumbling with books, videos, a chess game...and on top of that bookshelf were models of airplanes and a younger picture of himself. He was cast in the shadows, but a bit of light from a nearby window cast a beam towards the carefully placed row of airplanes. This is what I saw. But, what did I really see?
I felt loneliness, oppression, aging...but why? Then I saw an elderly man standing alone in the shadows, with a look of resignation on his face. His books, videos and chess game that he used to pass the time obviously not cared for. There, he had placed himself, wedged between two chairs, trapping himself. But, above all that, were the row of airplanes, obviously care for and meticulously place beside a picture of himself in younger days, and a small beam of light revealing a dusty surface. There, I saw a reverence for his past and his grip on hope.
This is how I read this photograph. This is what that photograph "said" to me.
A great photograph will carry a universal theme. Look further and it will also reveal a personal message to only you. This is the connection you feel.
Is this by accident? Absolutely not! The photographer has done her job. But how?