From Objects to the Subject

A single boat amongst sea wheat bambus sticks

“You must forget all your theories, all your ideas before the subject. What part of these is really your own will be expressed in your expression of the emotion awakened in you by the subject.”
| Henri Matisse

In this blog post, I look at the object-subject discussion in photography. Here, I would like to briefly explain my view of how objects in nature become a subject in the image. To be precise, it is my subject that emerges, my own story and interpretation. The viewer himself may see her own subject, her own interpretation in my picture.

From Objects to the Subject

In our world, many elements coexist. By relating to each other, they tell us stories. The photography I’m interested in is less about objects or elements in this world, but more about these stories between them, their symbolism, what they evoke in me or how I react to them emotionally. This turns objects into a subject, the subject of my image.

The Framing of the Objects

The objects in nature, like trees, plants, animals, people, buildings, the sky, the sun are not isolated from each other. As systems theory states, they are all in a reciprocal relationship with each other. We also experience this as landscape photographers. There are different conditions that have a different influence on these objects.

Time exerts an important influence. The season with its seasons influences the condition of each object. Trees turn golden in the fall, and in the spring, plants begin to bloom and shed their blossoms. In winter, animals retreat and build their warm homes to survive the cold season. But the time of day also exerts an influence by directing light through the course of the earth, the sun, and the moon.

Light influences tonality, tonal contrast, colours, color saturation and color contrast that we perceive. Situations arise with light that we perceive as cool in the blue hours, warm in the golden hours, and very contrasty throughout the day.

The atmosphere, such as the fog, rain, snow, or hoarfrost have an impact on my depth perception. They separate individual objects from each other so that they stand out better. They set a focus and accents. Often they simplify the view. They give a poetry to the scenery in a natural way.

Objects never stand in isolation. This means that they are also framed by other objects that assist them as neighbours in a scene. Next to animals stand trees or plants or other animals and people.

Now the interesting thing about framing is that it changes by our point of view, by the perspective we take. That’s what makes photography so interesting and helps us tell our own story.

The Interpretation of the Objects

When we resonate with something in nature, it’s because it triggers a vibration in us, a memory of something past, it hits our idea of beauty, stirs up fears, supports our strengths, or shows us something meaningful. When we react to something, we begin to search for the cause. Then we tell our part of the story. And from that we transform objects into a subject, the idea or story of our image.

We can reinforce this story by using different tools, applying them in different procedures or processes, looking at them from different perspectives or bringing them to life on the computer. In the end, the best case scenario is that a subject emerges.

Focus on the Subject

At the beginning of my work with the camera, many technical aspects, processes, but also different places at different moods were always in focus. Perhaps I was overwhelmed with all the possible combinations of these. Today, I look back at these images, and at best they are beautiful to look at. But they do not fulfil me. They do not let me stay with the picture and spend time with it. Because they just depict objects in a certain framing. This bores me today and is the cause of my long hesitation and staying away from the media. Today the subject is the core of my work, which fills me with joy. Something I encounter with devotion and attentiveness.

What is your subject?


The shown work above is from my portfolio titled “Harvesting the Pattern Puzzle”.