Embrace the Power of Emotional Proximity in Photography

newsletter Jul 03, 2023

Howzit howzit,

In this week's newsletter, I'd love for us to look deeper into the profound wisdom of the legendary Robert Capa, who once said, "If your photos aren't good enough, you're not close enough." This quote has often been interpreted as a call to physical proximity, certainly that's how I used to interpret it but there's more to it than meets the eye.

Capa's words are not just about getting physically closer to your subject. They are about being emotionally invested in what you are capturing. A prime example of this is Capa's own work during the D-Day landings, where he was among the first wave of soldiers going ashore in France. His photographs from that day are a testament to the power of emotional proximity, capturing the chaos, fear, and raw human experience of the moment.

But physical and emotional closeness are not always intertwined. Consider landscape photography. You can't physically get close to a mountain range or a vast forest, but you can still be emotionally invested in it. Ansel Adams, for instance, was deeply connected to the Sierras, and his passion is evident in his breathtaking images.

In the modern world, we see photojournalists capturing the heartbreak of firefighters as the forests they love are reduced to cinders. These images resonate with us because the photographers are emotionally invested in their subjects.

So, if your images aren't resonating with your audience, ask yourself: Are you close enough? Not just physically, but emotionally. Are you invested in your subject? Are you capturing something that moves you? If not, it might be time to get closer.

Here are a few practical ways you can apply this concept to your own photography:

  1. Photograph What You Love: Whether it's your family, a favorite hobby, or a cherished place, photographing what you love naturally brings emotional closeness.
  2. Tell a Story: Try to capture a narrative in your images. This could be the story of a person, a place, or an event. The more you understand and connect with the story, the more emotionally invested you'll be in the photographs.
  3. Connect with Your Subjects: If you're photographing people, take the time to get to know them. Understand their experiences, their hopes, and their fears. This emotional connection will shine through in your photographs.
  4. Reflect on Your Motivations: Before you press the shutter, ask yourself why you're taking this photograph. What does the scene mean to you? What emotions does it evoke? The more you understand your own emotional response, the better you can convey it in your images.

Take some time to reflect on why you want to photograph a particular subject. What intrigues you about it? How can you communicate that intrigue to your audience? Remember, every photograph you take should have some emotional investment from you. It doesn't have to be profound or deeply meaningful, but it should reflect your connection to the subject.

In the end, the power of a photograph lies not just in its composition or technical excellence, but in the emotional connection it fosters between the viewer, the photographer, and the subject. So, let's take Robert Capa's advice to heart and get closer, in every sense of the word.

Thanks ever so much for taking time to spend with me today, and I'll chat to you again soon.