We’ve all seen great images while scrolling through social media, newspapers, news or even the old fashioned magazine….
But what makes an image bring peoples emotions to a point where they have to comment, interact or share?
I recently posted the above picture in a group of 30,000 photographers from around the World. Now if you look at this image, it tells the story of a wedding day with rain and the bride still smiling and enjoying the occasion while hitching up her dress.
That is true, and that is what was happening here. But that aint MY story behind this image. This image is important to me because of the guy on the right of the image, stepping over and above his duties in more way than one. More concerned with the brides’ welfare and eager to help he grabs an umbrella runs in front of the bridal party and shields the bride from the rain. Lifting his camera every couple of steps to capture whatever he can.
This is my Dad, Alec.
Alec has assisted me at pretty much all of my weddings since I first started shooting. He works away from his family during the week, comes home on a weekend and gives up entire days to assist me. For Free. This is MY story behind this image. This is what makes this image important to me.
Now referring back to my question above and what makes people engage. It’s the story behind an image. It’s the emotion that someone feels about the image than can be shared, empathised with even be jealous of.
If I’d of posted this image with no commentary or explanation this image would have been seen but not drawn people to interact. But because I added a couple of lines of text saying how awesome Alec is for doing this, its generated to really passionate comments from people.
Some who have lost their Dad and wish they could have this, those who want to do this for their children, and those who just think Alec is a hero. (I think that too.)
So this got me thinking around some of the more famous images in history and how different they would be if you didn’t know the background or the context of the image. Would they provoke the same level of emotion or outrage. Most likely not. Take for instance one of the most recognised images ever. The image of the young Vietnamese girl running naked after the Napalm bomb was dropped. If we didn’t know what this image meant or what she was running from, the pain she was in, the fear she was feeling. It would never have become the image it is today and no one would know it.
Now don’t get me wrong some images speak for themselves or you can make a fairly decent educated idea of what is going on. But, that won’t necessarily pull at your heart strings, or trigger anger or fear the way that it would if there was a backstory to it to explain.
So I guess what I’m trying to get at is, do images become more interesting or interactive when the viewer knows the emotion behind it or the emotion that someone else feels about it.
It’s hard to imagine not knowing the motive behind certain images or their importance in documenting the travesties and triumphs or the human race over the last century. But imagine for a minute seeing some of the most famous photographs for the first time, without context, commentary or emotional attachment.
Four men crossing a road.
Someone standing in front of a row of tanks.
A black athlete holding his fist aloft.
I wonder what you’d feel. Would you feel the same about it. Would you feel nothing. Would you even stop and take notice of the image. Would you have even become a photographer…..