Category Archives: Photography and Music

Music and Photography: Technique and Interpretation

(I accidentally published this draft post earlier today while doing some site maintenance. Shortly afterwards a friend contacted me to say that he had composed a response… only to find that the article had disappeared when he finished writing. My apology! Even though the article is not perhaps final – for example, the title is not quite right for the content – I have resurrected it. I intend this to be part of a longer series of posts.)

There have been and are quite a few photographers who also have backgrounds in music, and in quite a few cases these individuals could have had – or actually did! – have careers in both fields. The story of Ansel Adams supposedly making a choice between being a photographer or a pianist is well-known, and there are plenty of other examples. I don’t presume to put myself in the same category as Adams, but I’m also one of these people.

When I talk with other photographers who either share this dual background or who are aware of the number of other photographers who do, the conversation sometimes turns to the question of why this is the case. What points of contact are there between the practice of music and the practice of photography? The differences seem to me to be quite obvious. Clearly one medium deals primarily with sound and the other with visual images. In addition – and I think this is even more significant – music uses the element of time in a way that photography rarely can.  Photographers almost never tell you in what order you must view photographs – though they may suggest – nor do they insist that you move on to the next image after some specified interval of time. While the photographer may intend for you to follow a particular path through some images, there is no way to ensure that you do… and you probably don’t! But the musical composer relies completely on controlling the flow of events in time. It is emphatically not OK to switch sections of a piece and so forth.

So, what is similar?

I think that there are several points of contact between music and photography. I have no illusion that I can say everything there is to say about this in one post, so let me start with a single very basic idea having to do with the relationship between technique and interpretation or expression. Continue reading Music and Photography: Technique and Interpretation