Yesterday, Madeline and I went to her art studio shortly after dark. She has both lighting that can be used for portraiture and blank white walls. I had a project in mind that we could both work on together. The past few times I have tried to take pictures of people, I have done a poor job of connecting with my subjects on an emotional level. I feel that I have been hiding behind a veil of irony and sarcasm. (On a related note, Madeline accidentally discovered the word sarcaustic, a combination of sarcastic and caustic).
My plan was for Madeline and I to trade places between being photographer and subject. The photographer would guide the subject to one particular emotion. She went first. She described an emotion described and then took a picture of me; then I held up a caption to mark the name of the emotion I was feeling. My strategy was to tell her a first person narrative story to guide her to a particular emotion. And lastly, one of the most important parts was for the subject to focus on feeling the emotion—not to focus on acting or appearing. Neither of us have any experience acting or modeling, so this was an interesting adventure.
I didn’t have high hopes at first. It was difficult getting started. The main challenge was opening up an emotional bridge, which required a special type of vulnerability from the both of us. However, by the end, I felt like our emotional connection was almost almost visible and practically tangible; it appeared as if we both felt the same thing (i.e. strong rapport). During our last few pictures, I was the photographer telling a story, but it felt like we were both equally experiencing the story; I didn’t feel like I was in control because the story was doing the leading.
The images we took are posted below. The image captions tell important details about the effects that the stories had on us. The most interesting part to me was what happened after our plan to tell a story and then take a picture to capture the emotion. We held up a note after the story (first on a paper towel and then on my phone) just to mark where one emotion started and where the next began. However, the emotion of the story stayed on our expressions.
The above two images were taken after the photographer told me to image sleeping late into the morning a relaxed sunday. I look stoned in the first image. But later, when I was not trying to pay attention to the image she shared, I still look like I’m in bed, relaxed and sleeping. It’s as if the story left an emotional impression that took about a minute or two to sink in. Moreover, I was not aware that I was still portraying the emotion of the story one or two minutes after it had heard it.
When you are emotionally connected to someone, your stories have an apparent emotional effect that lingers. Also, if you feel an emotion on the inside, that means your body is communicating it on the outside; we cannot hide our experienced emotions so easily.