Recently I was contacted by a photography student asking about my Body Emotions series. The student was interested in the background of the series and what got me into photography in general. She asked:
“I would like to know what got you into photography and why you chose to do a shoot about body emotions?
What influenced you into doing such an interesting project and what kind of meanings or emotions were you trying to portray?”
Here is my response, in case you (dear reader) were also wondering.
Why I Got Into Photography
I got into photography really because I love light. I like looking around me and noticing things. I like details about the world. I like the small worlds that inhabit our much larger world. And I love people and emotions.
For me, photography became a way to express what I saw in the world. It was an outlet, and sometimes the only way I felt I could speak. Most of the time I didn’t fully understand what I wanted to say until I started shooting, then it just all came out. At times, I didn’t even think I had anything to say at all, but once I got behind the lens, I couldn’t help but speak.
The camera also enabled me to dis-engage with the world physically while highly engaging with it both emotionally and mentally. The physical was always there, moving around a subject or manipulating light, but the mental exercise of seeing something before I created the photograph was powerful. It enabled me to be reflective about what I saw, and what I thought.
I also love how looking through a view-finder always changes my perspective. It forces me to think. It forces me to understand, and to notice. But that process never stopped within the camera. It evolved constantly as I edited photos in the darkroom, or manipulated images digitally. I always tried to force myself to understand what I was trying to say, and if that message was coming across. I also love imaging what people will think about a photograph as well. How can I get my message across to the viewer? What will speak loudly to them? (which ties in well to my career in experience design.)
About Body Emotions
I specifically began shooting body emotions after a weird night of playing around with my camera. I often shoot self portraits, and one night I decided to put a box on my head. I was working at my computer and seeing all these boxes everywhere. A box for my computer, a box for the screen, a box around the keyboard, 20 different boxes on the screen. It seems like we are always working with boxes and within boxes. So boom, it hit me. Why not put a box on my head? What would I look like if my head were a box?
It was after that first night that I began seeing and thinking more specifically how I might be able to convey emotions without facial expressions. So much of our lives is focused on faces. What can we say without faces? I’ve also always been a big believer in the power of body language.
So, I merged the two ideas and out came Body Emotions. I wanted to create a series of photographs depicting several base emotions of human life. All without the use of a face. It was a difficult project for me, and I shoot and re-shoot many many times. I shoot in both film and digital, often in the same night. I had to imagine lighting, body positions, clothing, and set. And, I had to do it all within the confines of my bedroom. It was a constraint that I gave myself. It also let me be more free with my body and more expressive without feeling awkward in some public situation, though I’ve often thought about extending the work to public places.
So I kept shooting and shooting until I had this nice large body of work and many different emotions. I then edited everything down to a base set. I worked both in the lab with prints and in Lightroom and Photoshop with digital images. Overall, it was a blast, and probably one of my most successful series.
Check out some more of my photography, and if you have questions yourself, let me know! I would love to hear from others about their own experiences.