Everyone has a world view, it’s the way we perceive the things we experience… Including the things we see. You’d think communicating this individual worldview would be as simple as hitting the shutter button right? Point the camera at what you see and presto! you’ve captured your worldview for everyone to see and understand, the crowd goes wild… No, unfortunately it’s not nearly that easy. In fact, photography only really gets difficult when you actually have something to say with your images.
Mood Versus Environment
The way we see the world around us has a lot to do with the day we’ve had, the mood we are in, or even the current weather. If the birds are chirping, butterfly’s fluttering, and the squirrels are squeaking, you may be in a great mood and your images could be bright and cheerful looking. On the other hand, if the rain is falling, cold is nipping, and your snot is running, your images may take on an entirely different mood… Sad, dark or grim perhaps.
The mood you’re in has perhaps the largest influence on your images followed closely by the environment you’re shooting in. Though, if you really wanted to be difficult you could invoke the age-old argument “which came first, the egg or the chicken?” in regards to environment vs. mood. If the place you’re in is bright and clean it might influence your mood but on the flip side, if someone just opened their car door into your Jeep (a-holes) you may see the negative or dark side of even the brightest, most positive environment.
Incidentally, if I could eliminate my mood before shooting I wouldn’t. Even though my mood can sometimes get in the way of an otherwise successful day of shooting it’s also what contributes to the success of certain images. It’s the ability to harness your mood and translate it through imagery for others to see that creates truly unique and dynamic images that convey your worldview.
Do you think the world is a great place? Is there a lot of crime around you? Are people generally happy or sad? Is your town thriving or suffering? Is the glass half full or half empty? These are all questions you need to ask yourself in order to get a handle on how you view the world you live in. You may be thinking “shouldn’t everyone already know their worldview? I mean, it’s their own worldview”… but remember, not everyone is as introspective as you are my friend.
Disposition… This is the word that comes to mind when I think about adjectives to describe worldview. I’m no psychologist but I’d be surprised if there wasn’t a positive correlation between ones disposition and their worldview. If you are a sad sac, think Eeyore the donkey, then there is a pretty good chance that you’ve got a fairly negative worldview. That is where the correlation ends though, if your worldview is negative it doesn’t necessarily mean your photographs are going to be full of crying kittens, grimacing llamas, and depressing landscapes. No, you could compensate for your glum psyche with happy, rainbow inducing images. What does all of this mean?
To know your worldview is to know yourself, you’ve got to take some time and really contemplate and be honest with yourself. When you are out with your camera and contemplating things to photograph consider how you feel and the way you perceive your surroundings… Then try to capture that in your images instead of taking a cookie cutter shot like you see on Flickr or Google Images.
There is something to be said for originality, it may not be the most popular, social media buzz inducing thing as soon as you share it but if you ever want to lead the pack you’ve got to break away from it. Embrace your own style, even if it’s not yet popular, hammer away and mature as an artist and you’ll find photography much more fulfilling.
Try this exercise… Go through your archives and pull out each image that you feel portrays your worldview, then wait a month and do it again. Are they the same? There may be some overlap but depending on your mood I’d be willing to bet they are a little different.
Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.