Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.


I find it interesting to hear how people interpret pictures. Of course, many, and perhaps most, images are not necessarily open to a tremendous amount of interpretation. For example, a great landscape image will elicit emotion in the viewer, but I think the pure aspect of interpretation is more limited. There may arise interpretive issues such as what the photographer wants the viewer to think (ie is this image urging us to support conservation, protect wild land or wildlife etc) but there are less likely to be issues regarding what the 'deep meaning' of such an image is.

Even though I didn't set out to imbue my Dreamscape series with hidden meaning, I am intrigued by the fact that people have offered to me interpretations of the pictures that are quite disparate from what I thought most people would think .

For example, take the following image, Dreamscapes #3. I 'set up' this self-portrait with the idea of trying to convey a nightmare. I tried to personify the unknown coming out of a blinding light to pull you away. I didn't guess that there was any other way for someone to think about this photo.

Dreamscapes #3
Copyright Howard Grill

But I was wrong. I have had people give me several different interpretations. The most interesting was told to me by someone that purchased the photograph and said that to them it illustrated the idea of "a young person going off to undergo his rite of passage"

And this one, Dreamscapes #6. When I post-processed the image, I was intrigued by the light ghostlike shadow of the smaller child at the right of the photo which was generated by the child's motion during a long exposure. I realized that this left the image open to some interpretation and was intrigued when a friend interpreted it as transmitting a sense of serenity after the loss of a child because, no matter what, the spirit of the child would still be there.

Dreamscapes #6
Copyright Howard Grill

For someone whose photographic 'focus' has been primarily nature and landscapes, it can be difficult to make images such as these. But I find that I enjoy hearing what people think these type of images mean and find it interesting that the interpretations can be very varied and not at all what I had thought about when making the photograph.