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Metaphors in Photography

We are all aware of how metaphors such as ‘stubborn as a mule’ form part of our spoken language. But metaphors also permeate our visual language, providing photographers with a powerful means of communication.

Derived from the Greek metaphora and translating as meaning transference, metaphors allow us to compare seemingly unrelated objects and provide a window or association to an experience outside that of the object’s environment.

An image of a down and out farmer from the Great Depression tells us not just about the hardships of the individual, but of a whole segment of society. An image of a child ravaged by hunger or disease talks to us of the inequities that exist in our world.

Metaphors allow us to explore the Human Condition and provide an important connection between our physical and metaphysical worlds.


Leica M7 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M7 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

The above image was made at Mungo National Park, in New South Wales, Australia. I had been photographing since dawn and was enjoying documenting the transitions in light, color and texture that occurred as the sun rose into the sky. The sun was still quite low and warm in color when I made this image. I was drawn to the scene by the bushes that existed, seemingly miraculously, in this otherwise barren landscape. The shadows and the textures in the sand seemed to further focus attention on this anomaly.

As far as a metaphor the image seems to express the notion of survival within a harsh environment. It’s interesting that the area was once part of a huge inland lake system that supported relatively large populations of indigenous people. More recently European settlers tried to farm the area. These facts only add weight to the metaphor I’ve proposed.

But of course, regardless of the photographer’s intentions, the viewer could read the image in a variety of ways. For example, the same image might suggest the strain on our land and, by implication, ourselves due to damage we’ve caused to the natural environment. Ultimately the photographer has to understand that images are more interesting to more people when they provide the opportunity to be interpreted in a variety of ways.

The image was made with a Leica M7 camera and a Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


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