“Photographs, which cannot themselves explain anything, are inexhaustible invitations to deduction, speculation, and fantasy.” Susan Sontag. On Photography
Photography is a mysterious art. One might think that a photograph reveals the reality of a moment, but as Susan Sontag explained in her essay “photography”, what it reveals is just a tiny part of this reality. What is outside the frame, or even things that are inside but can not be seen perhaps because of lack of context, is just as important as the part of reality that the photographer chose for us.
And I love mystery. I find very interesting this ambiguity that some photographs have and I always sought to incorporate it into my work. That’s why I love the contrast of shadows and lights, the depth and the hidden truth behind these shadows and lights. One of my favorite photographers is Alex Webb, master of the complex composition and use of contrast; contrast of situation, color, and of course, light. The use of light and shadow contrast in his photo essays gives his work a mystery, complexity and depth that can not be ignored.
But some may think that lifestyle and wedding photography are not the ideal styles to play with mystery and contrast. For many people this kind of photography must use the visual codes of the most simplistic ad. We see it as a flat style, all smiles and frankness. Yet there are more and more photographers trying to make lifestyle and wedding photography more true, and the truth is anything but flat. The contrasting use of shadows and lights brings out the three-dimensionality of the image and it is this depth that must be sought in lifestyle and wedding photography.
And if life is an essential part of lifestyle, there is also style. Playing with contrast can also be a stylistic choice, a way to communicate a personal vision. In my case, I like to bring out the mystery and the ambiguity of certain situations, I like to make more obvious this part which is intrinsic to any photograph but which can be felt more or less according to the choices of the photographer. So I can use the shadow-light contrast to communicate this vision by pushing a little more on the shadows, on what is theoretically hidden. It’s a personal choice that does not necessarily apply to all situations but I like to use it.
Without shadow-light contrast, images may lack depth, and so they may lack what makes them alive and relatable. Our lives are full of depth and mystery, the images that represent them can not be flat.