literal & figurative

In Film, Inspiration

There is a game that I find myself often playing with my camera lately.  I think of it as Literal  and Figurative. The rules are quite simple, but if you are inclined to play yourself, consider yourself forewarned. It can become a bit addictive.

When struck with a scene I feel compelled to photograph, I first take a picture accurately, representing the image in a straightforward, literal manner, and then make another photograph of the same subject, from the same perspective, but which represents the scene in a more abstract fashion.

My aim is for the first image to be a rather accurate representation of how my eyes process the scene, and for the second image to almost flow through me –  to make a picture of how the scene feels.

Sometimes the abstraction is an inarticulate mess. Other times, as is the case with this pair of images overlooking the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia,  I was surprised to find that the abstraction made a much better representation of layers of city life revealed from my high vantage point than my more literal photograph.

If you play along, I would absolutely love it if you’d share your experiences, or better still your images. Here in the comments, or by hashtagging on Instagram.


Keep your eyes wide open,



  1. Excellent post. It is just what I needed today to stimulate creativity! Thank you.

  2. Wow, this is a great creative prompt! Thank you for sharing this idea.

Submit a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.