Do Your Photographs Influence Your Mood, Or Does Your Mood Influence Your Photographs?

Speaking with fellow photographer Pavel recently got me back to thinking about why – and what – I photograph.

The tagline of 35hunter is “hunting for beauty and balance”, and one of the literal ways I do this is with a camera, seeking subjects and compositions that I find beautiful, then capturing them with a camera.

If my mood is not so bright, this process helps restore my faith that there is beauty in the world amidst all of the chaos and disarray.

Perhaps on these occasions I seek more obvious beauty, like a flower or a tree or a picturesque landscape.

But perhaps sometimes the type or the tone of the beauty I’m drawn to is different.

Until a few months back, I’d photographed predominantly in black and white for almost a couple of years.

Whilst I was still shooting for beauty, sometimes, perhaps often, it was far from the typical, obvious beauty I mentioned before.

Take this photograph for example.

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Yes, it’s a picture of flowers, and tulips at that, one of my favourites.

But the flowers aren’t all prettily perfect, heads raised and bathing in the sunlight in the prime of their bloom.

They’re obviously past their best, the rain has battered them down, and they’re on a grave.

Not exactly a happy image.

But I know when I made this photograph I found the composition striking, and moving, and had to capture it as best I could.

The tulips were obviously there in remembrance of the person whose grave it is, so were put there with love, and this gives the scene an emotional resonance that a bunch of wild flowers blooming in the woods wouldn’t have.

That they weren’t still fresh and upright I found poignant, and the stems and leaves appeared to be collapsing like a ballerina into the fabric of her dress, exhausted after a prolonged stage performance of divine beauty.

Another day I might have walked past the grave, dismissing the scene before I’d even registered it, instead being on the lookout for bright and attentive tulips, like this.

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But on this day, that bunch of tulips, fallen from grace (or bowing their heads in respect) on a loved one’s grave, really spoke to me, and I had to capture them.

I have many examples of far more bleak photographs that to some might seem like junk dumped in the woods and left to decay, for example, devoid of any kind of aesthetic appeal.

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But again, I suspect at the time I made these kind of photographs, I was trying (perhaps subconsciously) to match my mood, rather than enhance it with something obviously pretty.

Which sometimes can be more comforting, than trying to make yourself happy in a forced kind of way.

I’m still pondering this whole question, and find it intriguing.

But how about you? Does your mood influence your photographs, or do your photographs influence your mood? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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7 thoughts on “Do Your Photographs Influence Your Mood, Or Does Your Mood Influence Your Photographs?”

  1. Very nicely expressed thoughts on those fine photographs. You did a good job of exploring the aspects of associations and affect. My own approach to photography has evolved toward looking first at more technical issues like tonal range, contrast, resolution, texture and depth of focus. I would rate your photos high on those characteristics too. I think about any entry point to criticism is legitimate as long as it is thoughtful and developed with some care as you have done.

    1. Thank you Mike, I appreciate your comments. Usually I’m not one for analysing photographs at all, especially on technical aspects as I don’t feel I’m qualified to do so. Generally, I like a photo, or I don’t, including my own.

      That said, as this post talks about, I am aware that different moods and weather and seasons do influence what and how I shoot.

      1. What a question. Sir, I don’t see many changes in your photos over time. Mostly close ups of flowers or leaves.

      2. I’ve found a fairly familiar set of subjects yes, flowers, trees, leaves, churches (inside and out), stuff abandoned in woods, flaking paint, rusting and rotting doors, and so on. Just love those textures!

  2. The twists of the leaves and the face-down little flowers on the left, are interesting for their shapes but I find flowers on graves a little strange, really. To me, it’s killing flowers for the loss of a loved one who can’t see them anyway. More than the b&w photo, I looked at the tulip one and instantly saw the colours of seaside rock in it! So that’s a mood-lifter for me. But are my own photos’ content influenced by mood? I don’t think so. I tend to photograph something that catches my eye, and when I’m in a very low mood very little ever does as I’m inward-dwelling at that time instead.

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