“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
― Oscar Wilde
This is one of my favorite photography relatable quotes out there. It’s also one of the biggest reasons I love Street Photography.
How Does it Relate to Photography?
The world is a fascinating place. Extraordinary moments are happening everywhere, all the time. Things can be seen in everyday life that are so interesting, emotional, surreal, or full of mystery that they are almost unexplainable by sight only. Unfortunately, most times these things go unnoticed because we don’t really look at the things happening right in front of us.
Now, more than ever, we tend to focus on so many other things that we miss out on so much of what life has to offer. If you really stop and observe your surroundings, there’s so much wonderment to see right in front of you.
More Questions than Answers
Some of the best photographs are the ones that leave you with more questions than answers. Sometimes the more you see, the more you don’t know. That’s where that “mystery” in the quote really comes into play.
First, the photo has to grab your attention, but then it also needs to keep it. Mystery causes questions brought on by what we see in the photo.
What’s happening? Where are they? What is he doing? Why is she doing that? How does it look like that?
These are all questions that can be brought about by what we see in a photo.
If you don’t see anything, then you have no questions, no thoughts, and no mystery.
How to Apply it to Your Photography
Tell a story, but not the whole story
One way to make a strong image is to give the viewer enough to capture their interest, but not enough to lose that interest quickly.
What we see on the surface captures our attention and makes us think about what’s beneath that surface. If you can force someone to think, to wonder, or to even create their own story from a photo, then you have succeeded.
Some photographers don’t like to give any explanation or story behind their photos because they feel it diminishes the power of the photo and takes away the mystery. Some don’t even title it for this reason. Leaving everything to the viewer.
This, of course, is up to personal opinion, but their reasoning holds weight. I have some photos, such as the one below, where people ask me “what is going on here?,” or “tell me the story!” Part of me doesn’t want to answer because I feel it won’t be as interesting as their imagination might create.
The more you make the viewer think on their own, usually the better.
Creating an Illusion
Sometimes the scene creates the mystery, but sometimes you can add mystery or illusion by how you capture the scene.
There are some very successful Street Photographers out there that focus on creating illusion in their work. By manipulating real life into something that looks surreal, such as a man appearing to have no head.
Or a women having one leg.
The best Street Photographers are able to add even more complexity to the illusion with the use of anything from reflections to advertisement posters.
These illusions are mysteries because the visible doesn’t look real or make sense. So our brains try to understand how or why the visible looks the way it does.
The Ordinary World is an Extraordinary Place
“Life is Stranger than fiction” is another famous quote. Things happen every day that are crazier or stranger than anything we could make up on our own. From the random to the unexplainable, life creates new stories every day.
Sometimes we look too hard to find something interesting, unique, or mysterious. Many times they’re happening right in front of us and we don’t even notice it because our mind and eyes aren’t really looking at the visible.
Relax and become a part of your surroundings. Feel what’s happening around you. And see the visible wonders right in front of your eyes everywhere you look.
Tell me what you think about mystery and photography in the comments below. And if you have any favorite quotes for photography, be sure to tell me those too!