Why emotions in photography are important:
An introduction to the photography of feelings
My name is Dave Nitsche. Some of you might know me but most might not. I’m a conceptual photographer who lives in the state of Illinois here in the US.
I started taking pics about 12 years ago. It was just for fun… family kinda stuff… but I was lucky enough to meet a guy who was an incredibly talented nature photographer. I immediately got hooked until the dreaded winter hit. I’m not a ‘cold’ guy so I buried myself in my basement and started playing around with studio work. I would try to copy ads I saw and learn how light worked. I spent about 40 hours a week in the studio. I was totally obsessed.
Being a HUGE Dali fan before I even tried art I found quickly that studio shots, while cool as heck and something I still haven’t mastered, just weren’t the thing for me. So during a snow storm and decided I wanted to try and take a pic that meant something. Not just items to show items but using items to tell a story.
As my mind progressed in the thought process my skills didn’t. I had all these great ideas but couldn’t figure out how to do them. So with a pure stroke of luck I decided to write them down and draw a horrible rendition of what I saw in my mind. That process paid off later when my lighting and setup skills advanced. I’ve been blessed in my photographic career. A couple hundred magazines, galleries, private sales, teaching at Bryan Petersons school and books I’ve come back full circle.
As I’m writing this I have no pictures in any gallery, haven’t written any article and have pretty much vanished off the art scene. If I was an artsy fartsy kinda guy I’d claim I lost my muse, I have run out of inspiration or I’d forgotten the joy. But I’m not that guy. I just got bored. I’ve been back in the studio for a short time now enjoying what I originally liked about it. Showing my feelings.
The images are for me. I don’t show them on the Internet or anywhere for that matter. It’s given me a new understanding for what I do. Which leads me too…
feel•ing ˈfēliNG/ : 1) an emotional state or reaction. 2) showing emotion or sensitivity.
There ya go. That’s it. There’s nothing more you need to know about photography, imo, than that. My only goal for most of my career has been to illicit feelings out of people. Good or bad. My images are from my life. If you know them well enough you know me. Insecure, happy, sad, addicted, recovered, scared, terrified, joyous etc. My life, like everyone’s I guess, is replete with fears, joys and phobias.
“So Dave,” I’m sure you’re saying, “what does all this self reflection have to do with photography? I mean you’re boring me to tears!”.
Good question and sorry for lamenting over my trials and tribulations that is photography.
I’m here, at Alex’s request, to help you all get out of the technical and into the physical. Good studio works aren’t just technically great shots. They are FILLED with emotion. They make you feel.
Yeah, it just might be a bottle of booze but there is a reason you are drawn to it. I don’t want to belittle the art of shooting great studio stuff at all. It’s amazing stuff but the best things you see make you smile or wince. They create an emotion in you.
It’s not good enough to just create some brilliant lighting. Not to sound arrogant but I can do that all day. It’s not a chore anymore for me. It’s not for a lot of people BUT putting emotion in a still life image is ridiculously hard. I’m lucky enough to have a semi off center brain and the stuff just comes to me. I find Alex’s/Genia’s images incredibly emotional along with so many of the other great photographers on this site.
It can be taught but, and there’s always a but, you have to be willing to open up and show yourself. You have to be willing to commit and not give a crap what anyone thinks of you. If you can do that you can show feeling in your images.
I’m including a few images for those who probably aren’t familiar with my stuff. These are favorites of mine with a brief explanation of them. There’s a fine line between others understanding your meaning and “what the hell is he showing me”…
This image is about my mother who died a long and horrible bout with Cancer. The faces aren’t meant to represent her. It’s myself. A whole person being cut in two watching someone I love so much being killed by a little red thing.
I’ve never sold this image to anyone. It’s for me. I got a wonderful letter from a nurse about 5 years ago. She told me how she connected with it and how much it meant to her.
Her mother went thru the same thing. She didn’t need any explanation, she understood. She has the only other copy of this image out there. I had to send her a print.
A disturbing image for many. Syringes aren’t every ones friends for sure. So, in my usual manner, I did a whole series of 13 images with them.
My goal was to get people past their fears and see the image. To my surprise a lot did. I was talking with a neighbor of mine years ago and his son was in the front yard.
The child was very quiet and gently rocking back and forth sitting there. His father noticed the concerned look on my face and told me “my son is Autistic. There’s a storm going on in his brain every day”. That hit me like a ton of bricks. I shot this 3 hours later.
He, again, is the only other person (besides myself) that has a copy of this image.
This one needs no explanation really. Ever felt absolutely alone when you were in a crowded room? My most copied image. I’ve seen at least 30 different permutations of this image on the net.
I had seen a news report on a homeless man that was beat to death in NYC and tons of people just walked by and ignored him while it was going on. It produced this image.
This was about my first love who broke my heart. Possibly my most published image.
So there’s just a few. Like I said… feeling. It’s a necessity not just for art but in advertising also. There will be more later and how to achieve it.
Thanks for your time and keep clicking!!!!