This week’s inspiration is going to take a bit of a philosophical route. Browsing through my list of photos that I intend to feature here (eventually), I was reminded of this beautiful concept photograph from the mind, eye and camera of Alexandra Iordachescu. The photo’s title is actually much longer than quoted in the title for this article, and it clues us into just how personal this photograph is to Alexandra: No Mask Like Open Truth To Cover Lies, As To Go Naked Is The Best Disguise. Alexandra’s photo reminds us of this simple but incredibly important lesson: Photography is very personal.
Many times as a photographer, we might feel vulnerable. Some of the best works of any given photographer may never be seen by the eyes of anyone else simply because that photo may expose too much about a person. A photograph is a window into your mind. The viewer can often see more than what is immediately presented in the photograph. The best and most appreciated works tend to be the most revealing ones. No, I’m not talking about physically exposing oneself (put your chin on the curb), I’m talking about sharing little bits of yourself. Revealing yourself to your viewers has perhaps more impact than the technical aspects of your photograph. But to do so, requires bravery.
The title of Alexandra’s photograph is actually a quote from William Congreve’s play, Double Dealer (c. 1694), but that doesn’t remove its meaning. The message, though reiterated, is a very personal one that offers a look into Alexandra’s spirit. The photo seems to follow along with the same theme in what would appear on the surface to be a literal interpretation. It is implied that the subject is nude, and she is interacting with a mask (a disguise). But you don’t need to look so deep to see more meaning there. To me, the girl appears to be fantasizing. Maybe her mind is not focused on a person, but perhaps it’s of a different lifestyle, or a different setting. But to be kissing a mask, instead of a real person, suggests that she is afraid to act on her fantasy, or maybe that it’s unreachable. What lies is she living that she is compelled to fantasize in this way? Perhaps I’m reading too much into the symbolism, but I do believe that Alexandra had a very specific purpose with the setup and every element captured in this shot. The setting of a grassy field, the implied nudity (yes, out in the open), the theatrical mask, the placement of her arm – even the soft, unsaturated colors – are all elements of the design intent.
No Mask Like Open Truth To Cover Lies… is not a simple photograph. To me, the photograph seems well thought out. But it is deeply revealing of Alexandra spirit. I feel as though I have more of a connection with Alexandra, even though I have never met her. There is trust there. And I am forever connected and influenced by her work.
There are two lessons to be learned here, each applying to different stages of your artistic development. First: You should create for yourself first and foremost. Trying to please a large audience is not going to get your work recognized. You’re not running for President, you’re an artist – don’t forget that. Your work gets recognized for the message that is shared. Personal messages are more sentimental and more appreciated than general messages. Second, you need to be brave. Sharing any personal message through your work, no matter how small or how subtle, will require a lot of effort. It’s not that we’re necessarily afraid of someone knowing more about us…it’s that we are afraid about those who might not like what they learn. But you can’t let that affect you, not with your art. So don’t be afraid to expose little bits of yourself to your viewer. They will learn to trust you as you trust them and that will help you grow.
Alexandra Iordachescu has been contributing to the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group for a long while now. And we’ve discussed some of her works here before. Of course each time we discuss one of her works, I realize just how deep and well thought out her body of work truly is. She is an artist first and foremost, and the camera is merely her paint brush. She is at a place with her photography that many of us strive to reach, and so it goes without saying that you should be following her work on Flickr.