Gesture on a Mission

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Every other month I give a short lecture at the local camera club on a fundamental compositional technique as an introduction for the following months member submissions. Some recent topics have including using line, light, color, placement, depth, and movement. This month’s topic is “Using Gesture”.

The lectures always start with the same mission statement:

We are looking for exceptional images where the composition component – compositional element goes here – is a major contributor to the image’s story, mood, emotion, and purpose.

I break down this mission statement as follows:

  • exceptional images: focusing on the compositional element only does not ensure that you will create an exceptional image. Foremost, I want to remind the members that we are after great photographs and the compositional elements are only a piece of the puzzle.
  • major contributor: the main purpose of these assignments is to focus on the compositional element and to practice that particular element like a pianist practices their scales. To include the compositional element as a subtle part of the image is missing the point.
  • story, mood, emotion, and purpose: these words are included to make the photographer realize an interesting subject alone does not create story, mood, emotion, and purpose. The composition, among other things such as the use of time, focus, and processing, play an important role in carrying the photographers message.

This mission statement has served my lectures well, however as I worked out the lecture on gesture, I realized that the statement was not strong enough. I realized that gesture is so fundamental to my images that it is more than just a “major contributor” it is their essence. This also provided real insight into why I am so disinterested in most posed street portraits.

Here is the new mission statement I created for working with the compositional element: Gesture

We are looking for exceptional images where the composition component – Gesture – is used to tell the to the image’s story and to create its mood, emotion, and purpose.

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