From Snapshot to Metaphor

Recently I went to a party in Invercargill where parents and their children around the age of 15 to 20 celebrated together. It was a nice party and everybody had a lot of fun. I had my iPhone with me and started shooting some pictures of people dancing and I caught a few shots that were a little blurry and grainy due to the low light. All in all they were average party pictures that I did not pay very much attention to.


Some weeks later I bumped into these pictures again when reviewing the iPhone shots on my computer. And here I realised that at least some of the pictures had a quality that I had not observed when skimming them superficially. To me it appeared that some of these pictures exuded the essence of what being young means. Being free, being oblivious of the surroundings, just captivated by music and the own movements. The pictures were still not very good snapshots but I could see something deeper in them.

So I took one of these pictures and started processing it. And step by step it changed into what I had seen in it before. To me it became the humble epitome of what being young can mean. Technically this picture has plenty of flaws and I am not even convinced that it is a “good” picture. But to me it has the quality of elevating a mundane scene into a metaphorical quality.

I certainly admit that this is just me, the way my own mind works and that I would not sell this image as a piece of major art. But to me it is a nice example of what we see in a picture and how we are able to transform our vision into something real existing.


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.


Most of my pictures are in black and white. And this is for two main reasons. Firstly I think I can express myself a better way by creating contrasty black and white images. They come naturally to me and represent quite well what I want to express. Secondly (and that is at least equally important) this has to do with the fact that I find colour images more difficult to process and due to a lack of precessing skills on my side I just can't get them the way I want them. 

The latter is something that I am certainly not happy about. You don't want your artistic expression to be limited by lack of technical skills. And there is a clear need to fix this problem. In the past I have been struggling to use Photoshop mainly because it is not intuitive to me. I just couldn't retain the information of how to use certain tools because the workflow and particularly the logic of layer masks just doesn't make sense to me. 

And it seems that recently I've got a better grip on how to process pictures in PS. Maybe this is because they have developed their software further and have made it a little more user friendly. Maybe watching dozens of tutorials had an effect on my mind. Now I can even enjoy using certain tools like 'hue/saturation' adjustment layers. And Capture One provides quite a few great options for colour processing anyway.  

The result is that I have been trying it again and in the past days I have processed some colour pictures with results that are at least kind of acceptable. 

With regard to artistic expression I have clearly not yet found my purpose. What exactly do I want to say in a colour picture? It is obvious to me that I want to continue shooting and processing dark and contrasty pictures. I feel at home with this type of photography.  And eventually it is probably about developing series of pictures similar to the way I work with monochromes.

Some months ago I discovered the photographer Rémy Soubanère on Flickr. He is my current hero of dark colour photography. I love his pictures and the way he processes them. I don't want to emulate or copy his style but I find him highly inspirational. Here is the link to his Flickr page.
And his website

 As a result of all this I will be posting some colour pictures that I have taken and processed in the past few weeks. That's a starting point. And then we will see. 

About Processing

The more I take pictures and the more I develop a purposeful vision of photography the more I feel the need to process my pictures after just ‘taking’ and uploading them.  I want to make them mine. I want to add what I think helps them express my vision.  And I want to be able to evoke emotions in my viewers. 

All that can be done by getting the exposure right in camera, by framing, by applying rules of third and all the skills that we as photographers are supposed to have. But I think by focussing on the picture-taking process only we miss out on an essential aspect of creating pictures. The processing adds so much, the picture becomes different, more emotional, more purposeful by working on it in the computer (yes, the technical device that we need to work on our pictures puts me off, but this is the legitimate successor of the good old darkroom). 

And the more I think about processing and the more I do processing the more I come to the conclusion that the image developing process is supposed to transform a basic picture file into the final image.  And that includes changing it considerably. It means that the vision that I develop during the process is what guides me.  And it might well be that the picture will look completely different from the original photograph that I have taken with my camera. 

The photographer Juliana Gospodarou ( has developed a processing technique that she calls (en)Visionography. She uses purposeful processing in order to achieve a look that she calls emotional fine art photography. I just discovered her a few days ago and I don’t have a clear opinion on her ideas yet. I will need to look a little deeper and try to understand her vision and her technique. But her idea of detaching the final image from the source and of creating a new and independent piece of art in the process of development appeals to me. 

Apparently you need technical skills in order to process pictures on the computer. And according to Juliana you need particularly Photoshop skills. In the last few days I tried to get an idea of how to enhance my PS skills and I have to admit that I was not very successful. Online PS tutorials don’t give me the selective knowledge that fills my particular gaps. And I will need to take a closer look at what I need in order to develop my processing further.  And I think I will just start with the tutorials on her website and then take it from there. 

In the meantime I have tried to develop some iPhone images in Lightroom and PS. These pictures will eventual constitute a new mini series of the ‘modern world’. The development did not work well and so I eventually went back to the VSCO iPhone app and processed the pictures there. This is better than nothing but it does not satisfy me.  Still a lot to do and learn.