Chronicles from the World of Mood - part 2 of 1 2 3 4

by Ruben Buhagiar Published 01/10/2009


The definition of mood

The Oxford Dictionary defines mood as:

' • noun 1 a temporary state of mind. 2 a fit of bad temper or depression. 3 the atmosphere of a work of art. 4 grammar a form or category of a verb expressing fact, command, question, wish, or conditionality.'

All are valid, though the second definition might, in fact, have a negative implication (a person who is said to be 'moody' isn't normally seen as a stable character) and I personally do not agree fully with it because, after all, there is such a thing as a good mood.

But definitely, mood has to do with the psyche of a person.

In our art form, that person is the photographer.

Over time the technique of photography has changed greatly, from the Kodak Brownie to the digital camera. But one thing has not changed, and that is the creativity that can be achieved. But what separates a good photograph from a great one? Technical skill is certainly important but is by no means the determining criteria. As we said before, a technically superb photograph can be emotionless and flat if attention is not being given to the message it is intended to portray that is, to the non-verbal communication it is supposed to convey.

In fact, the number one determining factor for a great photograph is mood; the emotion conveyed in one image can, and should speak to the viewer and portray what the photographer was feeling in the moment that the image was taken.

One would here realise, then, that mood is personal. Yes, but not only to the photographer, but also to the viewer, the receiving end of the communication. Is the viewer perceptible to the mood the photographer is trying to pass on? A true photograph does this, but it can also do more, for the viewer has their own mood in their own right too. So I would go even a step further here by saying that a great photograph should involve the viewer too, make them part of the image and bring out in them their own interpretations.

As we all know, it is very fascinating to listen to what others have to say on our photographs and this is why we all feel compelled to show them to others, to share our vision...not only ours as the photographers but also theirs - the magic of photography.

Failure of the logical model

The human being has always felt compelled to transmit their emotions. Photography is but one way of doing so. Yes, there are guidelines by which we try to judge images, born out of our logical frame of mind with which we have been taught to think.

Everything we do in life we try to explain by a logical method. True? The logic within our head tells us to determine the quality of something by comparing with something else. In a way, our logical frame of mind makes us describe things relatively. But is everything explained as such? Think about it...if I were to tell you a joke, am I guaranteed you are going to find it amusing? No, of course not. Then why is it that some persons may in fact find it amusing while others do not?

It is not logical. Our thinking model fails here. Same with all emotions. How do we explain love? Anger? This is the subjectivity of the art. Which, in reality, brings into perspective the strict adherence to guidelines. (Note that I call them guidelines, not rules - rules are there to strictly obeyed, guidelines are there to give you direction). Number one question we should pose to ourselves when viewing an image - Do we like this image or not? Only when we have the answer to this question must we proceed to analyse why.

Analogies with other art forms

Indeed, the same is true in other art forms: poetry, lyrics, books, cinema.

Think about it.

As an example, let us consider writing and its different forms. In order to set the mood in their story, the author must use description, dialogue and action. Though novels and short stories are both categorised as prose, and both contain the essential elements of such, they are extremely different methods of writing. Novels are typically between 70,000 and 100,000 words, while short stories are rarely more than 10,000 words. Because of the vast differences in length, writers of short stories must weave their tales much more concisely than authors of novels. Unlike in the case of novels, the writer has much less time to effectively describe the setting and characters, but must do so in order for the plot to take off. A story consisting only of places and people would be boring, because the reader has no vehicle through which to becomeinvolved in the story.

The mood of a short story is established through detailed descriptions of the settings, people and atmosphere of a story. For example, if you are writing a scary story about a haunted house, the mood will be dark and foreboding. The setting should be dark - muted colours and shadowy corners - and the characters should be feeling a mixture of excitement and delicious fear. If, however, you are writing about Alice in Wonderland, the mood should be charged with energy and bright in feel - sunny skies, green grass, excitement in the air; you get the picture.

The entire point of the mood is to prepare your reader. Surprises are acceptable in a suspense story, but the surprise should not disconcert your audience. The author has a certain liability to their readers to not mislead them in their writing, which will happen if they fail to set the correct mood.

The same is true in cinema, though the latter seems to have the added tools of motion recording and use of music every time the work is viewed.

And the same is true in photography

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1st Published 01/10/2009
last update 21/07/2022 08:49:43

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