Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph Blog The Soulful Side of Photography – Dr. Ellen's Blog

The Soulful Side of Photography

Posted on February 6, 2012 By


“My wildlife photography equipment starts with my heart for the love of these beautiful animals. It continues with my head to learn about them. It is enhanced by my eyes for seeing their magnificence. My tool kit is completed with some mechanical items.”   ~Carolyn Wright~


Dr. Ellen Responds

Carolyn’s words are provocative ones.

How easy it is to become distracted by all the digital hype out there about hardware! My focus today is on the soulful side of photography; on photography’s underside, its soft side that also happens to be our insides.

Think about it. A soulful singer combines flowing melodies and poignant lyrics to touch us. A soulful writer tantalizes us with verbal strings of intensely felt words. A soulful musician is one who breathes life into their notes in a way that makes listeners feel the river flowing through them.

All of them take us into a world of inspiration and expand our consciousness.

Technology Cannot Do That

Our photographic hardware is not what gets us there. Even the most technically proficient among us do not automatically possess soulfulness. It does not rise up from a rote learning process.

In other words, a saxophone in the wrong hands does little for us (or them) even though their notes may be bold ones.

I think about these things when I pick up a copy of almost any industry publication, each one bent, as they so often are, on trying to one-up the next one in digital-speak.

The soulful artist is driven to do what they do for more lofty reasons.

They are driven. They literally breathe life their creations. They often inhabit a strata of intense solitude. They will lie sleepless far into the night listening to the blood pulsating through their veins simply because they live in a feeling state where they have learned to feel everything. They notice everything. They pick up on rhythms and nuances — and patterns — that escape others.

Noon Day Sun


They seek kindred spirits to connect with and, if none, then so be it. They figure they will eventually find them.

The moods they create mirror their persona and reflect how they live, how they think. Their subjects are self-revealing. They are at once the story and story-teller and the universe in which it all unfolds.

They work and kneed and wrestle and agonize until their authentic self emerges victoriously in some form of artful communication. Only then do they put wings to a song or words to a manuscript, or movement that results in the click of a shutter button.

Creativity Requires a lot From Us

The next time you pick up that camera think about these things.

Ask yourself why are you picking it up in the first place. Is yours a long view? Is your creative work emotionally self-sustaining?

Does it allow you to communicate and connect with others in ever-richer and more meaningful ways? Does it inspire you to keep learning and growing? Does it make you more reflective about the world around you? More passionate?

These are the things that count.

In the case of a photographer it is not necessarily the kind of camera used or the number of photos sold. And like the song that needs words or the novelist’s tabula rosa, it is not the pen that writes.