About Darkness in Photography

Shooting light is not possible. Only darkness makes us see. And yet there is the question how much darkness there should be. Do we want light darkness or in other words light greys if we talk about black and white photography? Or do we want deep darkness or in other words strong contrast? Or do we even chose a darkness that leaves barely any light, a darkness that swallows nearly everything? 

What do we want to express? How is our mood? How dark or bright do we perceive our lives and ourselves? Is the use of darkness in photography an expression of how we see life, how we judge the quality of life? Light is life. But darkness is too.

Does darkness represent the demons in us, tamed when we approach them in photography? Or is light in deep darkness maybe the expression of the slightest subtleties of hope and so an expression of vitality and deep positive feelings?

I work with darkness in my photography. I am fascinated by it. I find tiny little bits of light in deep darkness highly attractive. My heart opens when I watch the minimal subtle light that makes us see not more than just the shapes of forms. It makes my phantasy rave, gives me the thrill of the unknown that I can fill with my own thoughts and feelings.

Yes, darkness also has a scary aspect. The darkness of the unknown can be terrorizing. Maybe something evil hides in the darkness that I cannot discern and that jeopardizes me and my life? Maybe the darkness in a picture represents the dark side within myself, in my soul? Maybe I can see the abyss but not gaze to its ground? Darkness can make me shudder. Darkness can be threatening. But by inflicting this threat on us, darkness also exudes a thrill.

It is a game. An experiment. An experiment with our own nature and personality when we take pictures. When we impose our own taste on the frame and what it expresses.

And that is the fascination of processing pictures. When taking the picture with my camera I have a real environment, a scene that allows a limited number of interpretations. Processing a picture gives me the opportunity of widening my options, of adding new meaning by interpreting what I find in my original image. 

Processing is interpretation. Is enhancement. Is adding meaning. And that is when I process a picture into dark. I imprint on this picture my interpretation of a meaning of darkness. And I give others the opportunity of reading me through my picture.

Yes, please read the darkness in my soul. But be aware of the gate keeper.

About Light. And Darkness. And Light.

Light is life. Light generates life. And light makes photography possible.

I would like to write about what light means to me as a person and as a photographer. You might have noticed that in my photography I use light in a particular way. I juxtapose light with darkness. With a lot of darkness. A specific term for creating a space of darkness around light is ‘negative space’. I know a little about the theory of negative space. But when I take my photographs I am not applying any rules or theories. Light and darkness come intuitively to me. 

Over the years the meaning of light and darkness has changed to me. Was darkness a scary and menacing experience in the past so has it lost it’s frightening aspect. This has probably to do with my inner self that feels stable and in a light and bright space.

I know darkness. And its threatening aspects. And I have seen many people in desperation because of the darkness that they are wrapped into. But my personal experience is much more positive. Particularly over the last few years light prevails. 

Photographically I want to see the light. I want to make it visible. And the best way of making light obvious is to juxtapose it with darkness. The usual contrasts that the eye sees seem to be boring to me. I am just not interested in a scene with the usual tonalities of light and shadow. My eyes want more. More light. More contrast. So I create pictures where light becomes the dominant feature although it is surrounded by a lot of darkness. 

Often I work with electronic viewfinders that give me a real time image of the way the light behaves in the pictures that I am taking. And I adjust exposure time (and sometimes aperture) according to the impression that I have in the viewfinder. This is not the good old way of taking pictures and it is certainly not how I learned photography. But it is a very nice and direct way of assessing light and its effect on a picture.

My color association of light is ‘white’. To me it is a bright white light that shines on us, that guides us and that fulfills us spiritually. In photographic terms I am talking about high key. Very high key. The spirit of light to me is very, very bright. So high key pictures with only little shadows or darkness are a field that attracts me too. That is why you find high key pictures next to strong light / darkness contrasts in my work.

Yes, light is life. And it expresses hope and development. That is the intuitive force of my current photography.

(Thank you very much Noël for your comments that lead to these thoughts about light and darkness. The link to Noël's Flickr stream  https://www.flickr.com/photos/macnikon/  ).