I understand completely what you mean. This is a coincidence because I was discussing the exact same issue yesterday with other photographers.
My photography has reached a certain level, but the question now is, what do I want from it? What do I want it to convey to my viewers.
When I look back at the photography I did 10 years ago, I see an enormous improvement, and that is a good feeling, but now what next???
I believe that it is all about going out and _doing_ it, spending a _long_ time on one subject, maybe going back to it many, many times, to see if you can improve on the last image you shot there.
If you involve your own soul, your images will convey this 'soul' too. But having said that, it is the hardest aspect of photography.
I very recently spent two weeks in Scotland, in the Isle of Skye, and very interestingly my best photography was shot on the last two days of my stay.
Good luck with your photography.
I believe it is all about right brain vs left brain.
To learn photography we have to dedicate time to the left brain craft or language of the meduim. Much of what goes on in sites like this is discussion and learning of this craft. As has been said once there is a competency level there, we move on to right brain. The creative side.
The handling of the equipment at this point should be all muscle memory, all unconscous action. It is just an extention of our bodies and now we move on to making photographs that are an extension of our minds (souls). That is what will make our work unique and special and above all fulfilling.
My hockey analogy is when you play, if you start to think, you are screwed. Every play will be too late, and you'll be on your ass. You practice for years using the left brain, which looks after skating, shooting etc, where to go and when, --muscle memory.
You right brain can now take over and creativity, and at times, magic arrives to take you to another level. You are in a zone and anything is possible.
sensei Michael now has a new convert to the eastern way of thinking. Very well said. I like to think that the magic is really a muse. Semantics. Time to go and ring the Temple bells and feed the Koi. Don't these fish look a lot like Carp?
I believe that it is mostly about how you react to the subject matter before you. If you truly react and connect with the subject, have a deep respect for what you photograph it will come through in the print . I think that is why some photographers are so good at certain subject matter and may change and somehow lose that soul in the images. Others are exceedingly gifted in any subject they pursue be it landscape, still life, documentary or portraiture.
I have always enjoyed Ansel Adams landscapes, and I think any fan of his can attest to the soul displayed in his prints. Recently I had a chance to see a copy of a remake of a 1944 US camera publication of Adams work about the Manzanar internment camps called "Born Free and Equal". I have looked at a lot of photography in my day, but I think the portraits of the Japanese Americans it contains are some of the most powerful portraits I have ever seen. The concern for the subject and deep respect for these people that emanates from the images is incredible. the work of Eugene Smith and Weston are the same way.
I don't think technical aspects really matter with the "great" images. It is really a matter of finding subjects that touch you deeply in some way. I believe that your love and respect for the subject is what comes forward in a great photograph. Even the ones about tragedy and suffering.
When you see an artwork, read a play or book that resonates with you, has that degree of soul you are talking about, the artist has reached the highest level of accomplishment and communication. Maybe a better word is communion with the viewer. The greatest of art continues to radiate the artist's soul for centuries.
Keep looking and keep an open mind. Just like the rest of us.
"Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
Yes. This is exactly it for me.
I think that soul is about images that engage. I think that in order to produce photographs that engage we must first become engaged.
I had been photographing children exclusively for a few years, just starting to get a handle on the technical aspect of photography. My image were pretty good. Cute. I knew I had a good eye, but there was 'something' I just wasn't capturing.
I came home one day from a little 'minishoot' of my daughter at the park. Once again, I knew I had a roll of 'cute.' Was frustrated with that. I pulled into my driveway, to see a neighbor girl sitting alone outside, playing by herself and daydreaming. I had an instant flashback of myself at her age. It opened my eyes and made me cry because, somewhere along the line I had lost my ability to be alone without feeling lonely. Ditto for joy without self-consciousness, anger without guilt, self-expression without apology, love without fear. I photographed her right there, and that was when my work changed, with this one frame.
I suddenly knew what I was trying to say, and that has made all the difference.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
Originally Posted by blansky
No way can I embellish here ... This says it all.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
I'm beginning to believe that "The Soul" is in the failures, And success is fleeting and re-invents itself everytime with a new disguise.
If you can whistle while you work "You got Soul"
Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!
That is one of those statements that are either very, very profound or very, very stupid
Originally Posted by Thomassauerwein
 "Stupid" is not the word I was searching for. But my English vocabulary seems to have shut down for the day.[/edit]
Here's another one: "Soul" is the difference between a depiction and a picture.
I'm just taking a short break from the darkroom now; I'm printing postcards from a 18 years old negative. I was just testing a new film that day, and paid no attention to subject matter, composition or anything else. Just contrast (first chromogenic film - anyone remember XP1?).
I learned a lot about photography that day - my pictures are better when I don't think about composition.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I think the clue is to be amazed. And when you are amazed by what are you seeing, you need only take camera and shoot. You need to be open and ready.
You can think about your work, you can return to some place again and again, in difrent time and difrent light. But more then about thinking this is about patience and humility.
You must learn, but not only about photography.You must to know and to understand. Without understanding you cann't be realy amazed... JK
I vote for stupidity. After all how can something so elusive be so easily stated?
Stop trying to get into my mind, There is nothing there!