creativity exercise: humanizing a non-human subject or object


Have you ever seen a tenacious leaf? It’s the last one so stubbornly hanging onto a tree branch as the winter wind whistles in. What about raindrops dancing in already formed puddles on the sidewalk or the lonely teddy bear who has for two weeks been left untouched under your seven year old’s bed? Ever see a face formed in the bark of a gnarled old tree or the gentle rays of sunlight offering hope in a bleak scene?

*image copyright Allison Jacobs

According to the American Heritage Dictionary,“Anthropomorphism” is the “attribution of human motivation, characteristics, or behavior to inanimate objects, animals, or natural phenomena.”

Anthropomorphism is commonly seen in art, literature, and film – Orwell’s Animal Farm; the common personification of Death, Mother Nature, Father Time; The Brave Little Toaster; the “Dogs Playing Poker” series of paintings; The Velveteen Rabbit; Thomas the Train; Joos de Momper’s “Anthropomorphic Landscape”; and so on.

How is this relevant to photography? Anthropomorphism need not be as obvious or literal as the examples above. By shooting inanimate objects or events as if they have a story to tell, an emotion to convey, or otherwise project some human qualities, we create interest and empathy for the viewer – our audience is likely to connect with the image. Focus on whether you can suggest that your non-human subject has feelings (melancholy, joyful, angry, lonely, carefree, tired, stubborn, belligerent, etc), action/intent (bringing hope, attempting to comfort, threatening to injure, offering shelter, embracing, guiding, guarding, blocking, etc), or even physical human characteristics (a face, legs, arms, etc). If it helps, go ahead and title your image as well; in fact, sometimes it helps me to have a particular title in my head to really define my goals/vision when shooting.

editors’ choice

Congratulations to the ladies below whose photographs were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices!

Lisa Kitto:

Christina Klahn:

Kerry Varnum:

Megan Dill:

Michelle Barnes:

JoAnna Reynolds:

Thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!  We love seeing all the beautiful imagery!

Do you want to join in on this Creativity Exercise?  You can still participate in this Humanizing a Non-Human Subject or Object challenge by either visiting the forum here or sharing with us in the comments below.  We’d love to see your work!

free creative photography exercises by Sarah Wilkerson for Clickin Moms


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)