"Notice [that] when the energy is in the photographs. . ."

I’m not sure how this applies to actually Making the photo, but it reminds me of something I noticed when a powerful jazz sax musician in Wilmington, Larry Price, “hit” the first measure in a performance in what was a hub of creative interaction at that time, the Caffe Phoenix. As usual, the room was abuzz with people trying to be heard over each other. Larry’s first musical exhalation dramatically Raised the energy in the whole room, and No One could speak for several beats. It wasn’t because he was loud, though he had plenty of volume, nor was it because the piece was intrinsically punchy, though it was; it was because he Meant it, I think.. because he Breathed authenticity, passionately and humbly. Those qualities made the moment, the music, and Larry noticeable and unforgettable to me.

Photographer, Paul Tornaquindici, quotes mentor, John Paul Caponigro :

“This is the most important thing I will say all week… Notice [that] when the energy is in the photographs being shown, it gets quiet in the room. When there is little energy in the photographs we have to create it.“

Tornaquindici’s work has some of the more interesting “energy” I’ve seen in landscapes, without being crassly dramatic, from Iceland to Namibia.

I’ve noticed two things about Tornaquindici, as he presents his galleries of work:
a) each body/location of landscape work was made in a concentrated, intentional foray. He went “there”, intending to find his authentic views of the place and time, yet open to what the place would show him.
b) he credits the people who served as guides for him, both photographically and geographically, as well as “spiritually” in effect. He doesn’t seem to have gone there full of himself. Yet, to me, his images seem filled with his particular vision, born of his openness to seeing freshly.

Maybe that’s the key?
When one is on a personal frontier –vulnerable, appreciative, sensitive, enthused, curious– the work one does can carry that sense of Being Alive.
Maybe one doesn’t even have to be as experienced as Paul Tornaquindici for his/her work to transmit WhatEver energy one has brought to the process of photographing.

Worth noticing?


Published by

Wayne Upchurch

For years, as a “professional ogler” (a newspaper staff photographer), I simultaneously explored photography as craft/process/medium in its own right. The photojournalism work –credentials and mindset– got me into (and out of) places I would certainly never have had access to on my own. I was also practicing the discipline of getting a picture where there didn’t appear to be one and getting it Finished in a timely manner, to professional standards. I also learned to create imminently readable images despite poor reproduction in a small size. Though it took me several years to get this, the value of making photos that illustrated something already laid out in the story was suddenly Not Enough, and I began to make assignment pictures that added dimensions not already in the writing, or better Yet, raised questions so that the reader would go to the story for more answers. Having gained more than dreamt of, when starting out, I left to pursue my own personal photography, mounting exhibits along the way. I also worked with commercial photographer friends doing studio product photography, and making headshots for actors. Later, I also helmed a Public Radio “spacemusic” program, and acted in a Wilmington, NC drama company. I put the cameras away for a few years, to finish shedding the habit of self-limiting my identity as just “Photographer”, and can now pursue personal pleasure and expression through the freedom that digital imaging offers. Sharing photos on Flickr and participating locally in meetups and outings has renewed a passion for making new images and for sharing the process with others. For some time, I’ve found myself writing detailed comments on other people’s photos, as well as thoughts and pet ideas about photography, in general.

One thought on “"Notice [that] when the energy is in the photographs. . ."”

  1. Beautiful ideas, Wayne, thank you for sharing this food for thought (and eyes). The qualities you speak of, that “energy,” is one of the main things I love about photography, and is what I strive to bring to my images.

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