Use your imagination in fine art photography
Imagination is one of the most important things in art and implicitly, one of the most important ingredients of black and white fine art photography. In this article I will talk about how I use imagination in my work and generally how to use imagination in fine art photography, especially black and white fine art photography, in order to create (en)Visionography, and I will study this based on my new image EQUIVALENTS II (you can order prints at this link)
This long exposure image is a new addition to my series EQUIVALENTS, a black and white fine art series where I intend to deal with more complex volumes and relations among them than what I’ve done in the past, where I aim to investigate a new direction and add some new nuances to my work.
As I said when publishing my first image in the series, Equivalents I, this is a series I intend as an homage to Alfred Stieglitz, the “father” of black and white fine art photography, of fine art photography generally, and one of the first photographers who considered vision as a very important part of photography and the element that transforms it into fine art photography.
Equivalents II – Image context and creative vision
This image was shot in London, together with my friend fine art photographer Ian Good, in the area known as “More London”, close to London City Hall, one of the richest areas in subject to photograph you can find in London.
What attracted me in the first place in this scene was the narrow stream of water flowing into the distance among these tall buildings, like a guiding line towards something that can’t be seen but can be felt. I wanted to emphasize the idea that the end of this line is not necessarily the destination of this water stream, but that there is something else waiting for it there and this is unknown. We cannot understand from looking at the image what awaits this water stream once it arrives at the end of its path, it can be anything and this was my intention: to leave an open door for the viewer to imagine what he wants, to enter the image and create his personal story by looking at my story. This is why the background of my image, where the water steam vanishes, is dark. It is not because it was dark in reality or because it works well in the image, it does work well but this is not the way the need for this dark background was born. This darkened background is a manifestation of my vision and of how I imagined this photograph so it can tell my story – it is the way we step into the unknown and the point where everything is possible, where my story can be interpreted and changed while keeping the same feeling I had when I created the image.
The meaning of “Equivalents”
This is what “Equivalents” means, and by extension, what fine art photography means – to create an equivalence, a connection between what the artist feels about the image and his vision, on one hand, and what the viewer will feel when watching the image, on the other hand. This is what Stieglitz meant when creating his series of more then 200 abstract images of clouds. This is a way of using imagination to create an image and, at the same time, to stimulate the imagination of the viewer who will try to interpret the image. This is the way to go beyond the subject and its limitations and transcend the common representation of a scene/subject in photography.
You don’t need to manipulate the image, you don’t need to change things in an obvious manner, to create a different new world in your photograph, you only need to interpret what you see and relate it to your experiences, to your world theory and beliefs, and then to find those elements in the image that can be transformed into symbols and used to communicate the same feeling to the viewer, so he can use his imagination in his turn and recreate a different story but based on the same emotion.
It may seem complicated when explained in words, but it is very intuitive and it works very naturally if you leave your imagination free and if you are honest with yourself as for what you want to convey through the image you create – as for what its the vision behind your photograph.
Fine Art Photography Guidelines
1/ Create personal art – Create authentic art
Speaking about myself, I never stay on the surface when I create an image. I love telling stories to myself and to others through my photos, I love imagining the life of my images and I love using what I see around me as a tool for creating a metaphor for my life experiences, for the way I feel and think about the world, the way I filter the stimuli I receive from it. And I love to transform all this information, all this imagination into black and white photography, into (en)Visionography. This is my way of creating fine art photography, by putting myself inside my images and leaving myself free to tell my story through the images I make. This is what makes my art mine and different from others, the fact that it is born inside of me and not outside.
If I were to give a piece of advice as for how to make authentic art, I would say this as a first:
Relate your art to yourself if you want it to be authentic and original.
2/ Use imagination in fine art photography to create a story and access the “Common Unconscious”
Use your imagination in fine art photography, not only when you interpret an image but also when you create it. Imagination is what connects the artist with the viewer because in many cases both will use the same tools, one to create photography, the other to interpret the same photography.
People communicate at a very deep level, both intellectually and emotionally, they have subconscious mechanisms that makes them relate to the same symbols and representations, thus be part of the same world. It is what Carl Jung calls “common unconscious” and this is the part of the mind that people share no matter where they live, their traditions or habits. This is why, if you know how to use your information right and trigger the right stimuli, you will be able to make anyone understand the message and essence of your image, even if they don’t know anything about it. All you need is to communicate with your viewer on a deeper level, the emotional level.
Relative to Jung’s theory of the common unconscious that gave birth, as a natural continuation, to his “Theory of Archetypes”, my series Ode to Black | Black Hope is related to these archetypes, to what they mean and how they function, and the names of the images are the names of the main archetypes Jung describes. I won’t go into details now, I’ve explained in detail how I created this series and you can find it on my blog among the black and white fine art tutorials I’ve published over time, but this is a fascinating study, to discover what are the things all human react to and relate to, and use this underground communication to relate to the others through your work. This is one of the things I subconsciously and instinctively use in my work to be able to communicate with my viewers.
Which leads me to my second piece of advice a for how to create black and white fine art photography, or fine art photography in general – this applies to both monochrome and color:
Imagine stories and try to tell them through the images you create. Create series so you can tell the entire story more eloquently.
Vision and imagination is what will put you in contact with the ones who see your work and what will trigger an emotion in them.
And now some tech talk about the image, since this is important too, so to create an image that is as close as possible to your vision.
Technical Data – Equivalents II
Long Exposure image.
– Camera settings:
424.0 sec (7 min 04 sec.) , 11mm @ f/8, ISO 100,
CAMERA: Nikon D7000
LENS: Nikon 10.0-24.0mm f/3.5-4.5
– 10+6 stops Formatt Hitech ProStop IRND Filters
Black and white processing – Photography Drawing (PhtD)
Here is a before/after of the image so you can see where I started from and where I ended at. And I just told you WHY I do what I do in this article.
As for the “HOW” part, there is a lot of material you can study on my blog and my YouTube channel.
If you want to have an insight into my workflow and fine art philosophy you can watch the extended DxO Webinar “Explore Architectural Photography with Julia Anna Gospodarou”, where I show how to create black and white fine art architectural photography, that I presented live recently in my quality of DxO Image Master.
Also have a look at my Black and White Fine Art Tutorial for the image Fluid Time V that you can find on my YouTube channel. I’m preparing another tutorial so if you want to be notified when it will be up you can subscribe to my blog and YouTube channel.
In my next post coming soon I will talk more about vision and try to explain why we need vision to create fine art photography.
Further study resources for fine art black and white photography – Tutorials and reviews
For more tutorials about fine art black and white photography, (en)Visionography, long exposure photography and architectural photography you can visit my extended collection of Tutorials about fine art black and white photography. If you want to read even more tutorials you can also subscribe to receive all my future tutorials via email even before I publish them anywhere else.
More about how to create fine art photography, from vision till processing and the final image you can read in my book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography, with co-author Joel Tjintjelaar, also in my video tutorial “Creating (en)Visionography – The New Fine Art Photography – Long Exposure, Architecture and Beyond” a hands-on tutorial studying fine art photography, accompanied by an eBook presenting my processing workflow.
If you want to study all this with me personally you can take a private workshop or a mentoring course with me.
Julia Anna Gospodarou – (en)Visionographer
Julia Anna Gospodarou is an architect with a Master degree, a multiple award-winning black and white fine art photographer, (en)Visionographer, author and sought-after educator, founder of (en)Visionography™ and Photography Drawing™, author of the best-selling book From Basics to Fine Art – Black and White Photography (co-author Joel Tjintjelaar), with high distinctions in the most important photography competitions worldwide, published internationally in numerous books and magazines, passionate about beauty and trying to spread it into the world.