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?
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.
What’s the best way to improve your photography? Shoot thoughtfully and frequently! Try new things and embrace creative and technical challenges. Every month, Sarah Wilkerson posts a new tutorial and challenges our members to join in a new Creativity Exercise on the Clickin Moms photography forum. At the conclusion of the exercise, we select Editors’ Choice images from among the exercise submissions and share them here with you on the blog. Congratulations to the ladies whose photographs included in the exercise above were selected as this month’s Editors’ Choices, and thank you to everyone who participated in the exercise!
And be sure to participate in the next exercise! Visit the forum where Sarah has posted the next challenge. We’d love to see your work!
Sarah Wilkerson, New York
CEO | CMU Instructor
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Duke graduate and former attorney Sarah Wilkerson joined Clickin Moms as a member photographer in 2008 and quickly became a leader in the community. Together with Kendra, Sarah has led the evolution of the company’s mission, program development, and position within the greater photography community. She currently resides in New York with her Army JAG husband, three sons, one daughter, and two dogs. Sarah shoots with a Nikon D4, enjoys tilt-shift and atmospheric black and white work, and instructs CMU’s upper level composition courses: Elements of Design and Composition and Creativity.