Infusion of Self.
We leave an imprint of ourselves in our images – this is what I mean by Infusion of Self.
Infusion of Self is not equivalent to an imposition of self. Imposition of self occurs when we point a camera at somebody and alter his/her behaviour (posture, expression, etc…). The resulting photo will be different from the one that would have emerged had we not imposed our presence — and camera! — on our subject (I like to think of imposition of self as the human equivalent of the Observer Effect in physics!).
But that’s not what I’m referring to when I speak of Infusion of Self.
Infusion of Self is deeper, and it can occur even when our subjects are unaware of our presence and even when we’re photographing inert objects.
Remember, we as photographers are storytellers (please see the previous section, Inspiration). When we create an image, we are sharing our unique vision of the world, to the world. This is achieved via a myriad of decisions that we make while photographing.
For example, let’s assume that before us sits an old man on a park bench. The scene likely contains many elements — the old man and the park bench of course, but perhaps also a garbage bin nearby, a playground in the distance, people walking by from time-to-time, fluctuating sunlight as the clouds roll by above, etc…
Now let’s assume we decide to photograph our old man. We’ve just made a decision that somebody else may not have made. But this is just the first of many possible decisions:
Do we click the shutter when the old man is frowning or smiling? Do we stand tall or crouch down low to the ground before photographing him? Do we compose the scene so that the garbage bin is included, the playground, or both? Do we wait for a passerby to enter the frame? Do we use a wide-angle or telephoto lens? Fill flash? Film or digital media? (And on and on…)
The above are choices we make irrespective of whether we engage our subject, and they all affect how his “story” is told (and ultimately perceived). That is why if we send 10 different photographers on an assignment to each take exactly one image of him, we will almost certainly end up with 10 very different images.
The potential permutations of the variables (those above and those not even mentioned) are literally astronomical in number.
But here’s the interesting part: because our images are imbued with our unique choices, we may be identified through our images.
Despite all the possibilities, we may still discern a “look” or style in accomplished photographers whom we admire, because they have achieved a proficiency in their work that allows them to communicate their “vision” in a consistent way. In other words, despite countless potential decisions, they consistently make choices in which we find their perspective, in which we find their imprint. This imprint is applied all along the photo-creation chain — from the outset, with the choice of subject matter, through all the moments leading up to the click of the shutter, to the subsequent post-processing. The result — the image — is as unique as a fingerprint.
Achieving an image “fingerprint” through Infusion of Self is what we should all aspire to, because it can only be achieved consistently when we have gained a high degree of efficiency and proficiency, and it is only possible when we, in a very real sense, are “true” to our vision.
I keep this in mind, when I photograph.
—Peter | Prosophos.