Finding the Essence in Photography

“Reduce to the max.”
| Slogan of the Smart car introduced in 1997

Finding the Essence

In my blog post on “The Why to Photograph”, I argued that I’ll always try to capture the world for what it is. But what is the world? What is the essence of it?

What it the essence of something?
Why is it important to capture the essence?
How to we know that an photograph captured the essence of something?
Is the essence objective or subjective?
Does the essence change with time?
Can we observe the essence of something with our senses?
Do we need other senses to perceive the essence?
What do we learn if we see the essence of something?

Those are difficult questions that potentially stay unanswered. There may be many different paradigms looking at these questions from different philosophical angles. Here are some of my humble thoughts about it.

What is art? Without going into a discussion about the concepts of art, one could potentially distinguish two different concepts of art: The first is art as human creation. This concept emphasizes the skilled workmanship through which we create. The second puts the narrower focus on art as human re-creation. The latter direction characterises a creational process of an image of reality. This second direction potentially has a lower degree of freedom as every outcome is made on the purpose to be an image of reality.

What is reality? Is reality everything that exists? Or everything we perceive to exist? What about emotions? Do they exist and are they reality? Is everything real that is only a perception for you individually, and no one else can perceive it? What is the difference between reality, perception and the truth?

No matter if we create or re-create, when we do it, something becomes real that hasn’t existed in that form before. We give life to a sculpture, a painting, or a photograph through that creational process. But is art the pure existence of something that was created? Potentially not. Art is an expression. An expression of a truth. By observing that was created and by being emotionally affected by it, the artist as well as the audience receive a growing understanding of that truth. And this truth helps us to define reality that can be perceived.

The purpose of art should therefore not be to follow someones else’s truth, but to search inside for this emergence of truth. Personally, I define this truth as the essence of it all.

This essence is therefore a connection of my mind, my heart, my soul with everything around me in a specific moment. It is fluid, and dynamic. It changes interpretation vividly. But the essence is capturing that specific moment. For that, photography is an amazing tool for me to capture the world for what it is in that specific moment. If I don’t strive to capture the essence, I don’t have a connection between mind, heart, soul and my environment and am not present in that moment. If I am present however, I’d like to communicate this concept to others.

One possibility finding the essence for me is silence. Arriving in a landscape, sitting down and immersion myself into it, observing its come and go, breathing in its smells, paying attention to its tones. Often then everything reduces around me, all the noise disappears up until a point one can no longer strip away anything from it. When everything is reduced to the max, I know that I’ve found my truth, my essence of this moment.


“Everything that’s created comes out of silence.
Your thoughts emerge from the nothingness of silence.
Your words come out of this void.
Your very essence emerged from emptiness.
All creativity requires some stillness.”

Wayne Dyer