Last Updated on 01/23/2024 by Chris Gampat
Stare at the lead image of this article. If you’re looking at the image above and not having your mind make so many different associations, you’re probably not very in tune with what’s going on. It’s almost impossible to not see the irony. The man on the phone was quite literally just standing there when I shot the image. You could easily make connotations that the statues behind him represent people who feel like they’re waiting in line forever. But it’s also just against human standards to believe that the man just happened to be standing there. Why? Because it breaks conformity, and that’s a major part of getting people to stare at your photos longer instead of just zipping past them.
Breaking conformity is often a big part of art. And as a photographer, it’s your job to create art — unless you’re a photojournalist, and even then, there are artistic ways to document something happening.
When something defies expectations, your brain notices. Sometimes, we just let it go and move on with our lives. That’s something that we do to filter stress out of our lives. But when people are at ease, they notice these things. People often stop to stare at photographs when they’re at ease, and providing that the stimuli is something unique to them. A great example of this is multiple exposures
Having some sort of mental mold of the world around us makes life easier for our survival. We come to just expect things. But when things don’t happen as expected, we start to question what’s in front of us. That’s something that you can do with your photographs.
A photographer that does this so well is Gundula Blumi, whom we’ve interviewed a few times. Her multiple exposures, also seen on her Instagram page, are something that challenges the ideas of conformity yet makes us simply stare at the image. Ultimately, they elicit a feeling in us. Some may be perplexed by them, while others may be awestruck. The multiple exposure process does that for all of us. At times, it can be a happy accident. But there are other instances where we see the image in our mind’s eye instead of look at it in front of us.
These days, many photographers conform to the idea of making images based on a trend they see on TikTok, Instagram, or other social media platforms. But all you’re doing is conforming to an idea to enrich a platform. What you make for that algorithm doesn’t necessarily enrich you, and it surely doesn’t push you to be more creative as a photographer. Instead, you just become a content creator.
The image above was made with second curtain flash and a slower shutter speed. When we look at the photograph, we expect to see the model, Jordana, very sharp and still. But we don’t necessarily expect to see the hula hoops around her waist in the way that we do. We’d instead believe that the hoops should all be sharp. This isn’t the case, though. And so it breaks the idea of conformity. To do this, it required a creative touch that can only be done using 2nd curtain flash and some creative freedom.
As you can see, there are several ways to break conformity. We, as photographers, just have to ponder on it more.