How to make Photographs with Meaning

Black and white photo of a statue at Versailles, Paris depicting an angel and wreath against a dark grey sky

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series lens @ 102mm. Exposure: 1/60 second @ f11 ISO 100.

Home of the Sun King

Versailles is an amazing place. The lavish palace, much of it functioning as a museum, and grand, structured garden can easily keep you busy for a full day.

My own visit to Versailles was on a very warm summer's day during peak tourist season. Yikes! The queue, just to get into the joint, was long and slow moving. After about 45 minutes I got through the gate and made the mistake of following the crowd towards the museum section of the palace. Once in the door I was immediately herded up the stairs where the crowd moved me along the long corridor to view the wonderful art on display.

I made a few photos along the way, but it was tough. There were just so many people. Eventually I got to the end of the corridor, found an exit door and got the heck out of their. One day I'II return, out of season, and experience the palace in relative peace and quite.

Finding Solitude

Once outside I checked out the main fountain, along with hundreds of other people. Fortunately, after walking for a few minutes, I was able to lose myself along the myriad of pathways snaking through the huge green gardens in front of the palace. By doing so I was able to find lots of peaceful nooks and crannies, far enough away from the crowd, where I was able to work untroubled.

The Process

The hard-edged starkness of the statue and the lyrical nature of the clouds, that seem to surround it, have been emphasized by a black and white rendering. A very subtle warm/cool split tone further adds to the separation between statue and sky and, in a way, helps to metaphorically ground the statue. One possible reading that might follow is that the angel is now earth-bound.

Meaning and Message

And what about the relevance of the statue's gaze towards the wreath? What might this suggest: loss, estrangement, memory, sorrow?

Of course meaning does not exist solely with the artist or the patron. It also exists with the viewer and, in the case of public art re-purposed through photography, new interpretations are also possible. By making the above picture my own artistic concerns are also part of the final image. As always I hope to influence the viewer towards a deeper interpretation of what they perceive in my photos and in the world around them.       

I've long been captivated by statues, religious or otherwise. Other than the quality of craftsmanship I think I'm particularly drawn to the metaphor and symbolism explored. The most compelling statues seem to be embedded with human drama and emotion.

Picture Maker or Picture Taker?

As I write it occurs to me that, like a photograph, a statue represents a moment in time. And, just like a photograph, a statue presents a kind of reality. One that has been created be the maker. And photographers, as creative beings, are makers too.

Glenn Guy

Travel Photography Guru