People versus Things

November 26, 2017

As you know from work and family, people add drama. All stories are based on drama of one kind of another.

No matter what you're shooting, when the photo includes people, it's probably going to be more powerful and tell a different kind of story. Perhaps multiple stories on different levels, not all of which will be obvious to a viewer. 

I took the photograph below in the Great Smokey Mountains, at Cade's Cove. It's an absolutely breath-taking location, but even where I was standing to take the shot were maybe half a dozen other photographers. Normally I'd not have bothered, but out in the meadow, a gathering was taking place.

It was a wedding, and I immediately knew that this was something worth shooting. The addition of the wedding party, mid-ceremony, turned a beautiful (if overdone) landscape shot into a unique image. Before, it was just a beautiful view. Now, there was a story.

The juxtaposition of small against large in a photography is often engaging. In this case a group of tiny humans against the majestic and vast mountains.

Likewise, there's a juxtaposition between the concept of people and humanity, fleeting and always on the move, against the static timelessness of the landscape. 

One might ask what these people are doing here. If you look closely, you might be able to make out a wedding dress. And this is at the heart of why I took the photograph at all. It's because I was there on my honeymoon.

For me, at that time, the concept of being married (or re-married) was very large in my mind, having gone through it a month before. So, I connected with this scene on a fundamental level. For me, even though the people seemed very small against the mountainside, what they were doing was so much bigger. As big as a mountain, in fact. So the juxtaposition wasn't physical, but metaphysical and spiritual. Marriage is as big as a mountain. 

The only way I could really communicate that with the photo was to make sure that the title reflected what was going on. "Cade's Cove Wedding" helps me communicate the significance of what was taking place, and can perhaps help communicate that deeper level of meaning to viewers.

Ultimately, though, I'll always connect with this image on that most personal of levels, and it will always remind me of my honeymoon and my wife. And that's about as pure a reason to take photographs as you can get.

One of my upcoming blogs will talk a bit about this concept of motivation, and I'll be talking specifically about Vivian Maier's photography, and why it means so much to me.