Gesture: The Essence of a Photograph

Blog©Randy Ziegler

What is that illusive quality that defines an image and gives a photograph its essence? In color photography, most photographers are aware of the importance and influence of light and color in their photograph. However, another constituent is important though less understood . . . gesture. It is a common theme in my workshops. Gesture is what gives a photograph, painting, sculpture, or any work of art its unique expression and characteristic. Gesture can be subtle or obvious, and is not only in people’s mannerism, but also in virtually everything.

Every day we are a witness to the more obvious forms of gesture in people. The way a person walks or how they stand, use their hands when they talk, or a particular sitting position. How people display, signal, and express themselves are all components of gesture. However, gesture is also expressed in the flow and reflectivity of water, peeling paint on a weathered door or building, a tree that is bent over by the wind or after a storm, a dog curled-up taking a siesta, the pattern and shape of clouds in the sky, etc. Gesture is everywhere when we look for it. Think of gesture as a kind of visual fingerprint that gives a photograph its own unique imprint or essence.

On your future photographic wanderings and travel adventures, look for the moments of gesture that will define and express your visual story. It will elevate your images to a higher level that can leave an indelible impression on your viewer. Put your heart into everything you photograph!



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