The Power of Intent

“Once the answers to the ‘why’ emerge, photographs will be made and not captured.”

“Once the answers to the ‘why’ emerge, photographs will be made and not captured.”

This article was originally published in April 2012.

Many works of photographers seem forced because of an overall, overwhelming adherence to a concept without really answering the question ‘why’. In most of these cases, the images are not much more than trapped reality where, or when, something has happened… or not happened. Most students of photography are taught to eliminate variables, both in their compositions and in their concepts,to develop a stronger visual language. In many cases, what begins as an exercise to create a stronger focus on concept ends up being a narrowing down of perception. This is because most fail to realise that the biggest variable in the equation is the viewer, and eventually, the photographer.

Most courses, books and teachers deal with content within the frame. As significant as this may be, I believe that it is not as important as the intent in the frame. The only way to create intent is to ask ‘why’. Why shoot? Why now? Why this particular subject? Why this frame? Why keep something? Why eliminate? Once the answers to the ‘why’ emerge, and the content pleases and shows the intent, photographs will be made and not captured.

You will not… cannot… own a moment by simply capturing it. I have been mulling over this for a while. I realised that I do not like the word ‘capture’. By its very definition, it implies the use of force to captivate, possess, hold and control. Exactly what is it that we are holding or controlling when we release the shutter? Are we imprisoning time? Are we locking away space? What time? Whose space? And most of all… Why?

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, better photography, april 2012,, K Madhavan Pillai Editor, the content of a photograph, how to make photographs and not simply capture, why do we take photographs, how to create intent within the frame, perception in photographs