Posted by: kerryl29 | December 27, 2012

Images of Meaning

I’ve been working on a Website redesign for more than a year now.  My original approach–something you will still see if you visit the site, since I remain engaged in the process of working on the new look–was to present my images using an extensive gallery structure.  I decided some time last year that this watered down the quality of the presentation, and was pondering the implementation of a portfolio design.  I ultimately concluded that I didn’t necessarily have to make a choice, and have adopted a format that (hopefully) takes the best of both concepts.

Bond Falls, Michigan

Bond Falls, Michigan

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything.  Believe it or not, there is some relevance to the title of this piece.

One of the reasons I decided not to simply dump the galleries on my website and go all-in with the portfolio style is that I realized that the vast, vast majority of print sales that I make through the site have been of images that decidedly would not be included in any portfolio that I would produce.  The fact is that my Web-generated sales are very, very different than sales of prints that hang in exhibitions.  The latter is exclusively made up of what I consider to be my best work–if for no other reason than I don’t exhibit anything else.  But the Web…that’s another kettle of fish entirely.  The Web is something much closer to a full catalog of my images, including a large number of shots that I wouldn’t ever produce prints of unless someone specifically asked for one.  Thus, if I ditch the extensive galleries, I’d inadvertently be eliminating a significant percentage of my print sales.

Dusk, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

Dusk, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

But there’s more to it than that.  Recently, I’ve sold a number of large prints based on Web inquiries and every single one of those sales has involved an image that would never see the light of day if I were to move to the portfolio style.  I casually ask customers why they choose a particular image (if they don’t tell me without provocation) and invariably the answer has something to do with the place depicted, a theme that the setting inspires or a particular memory conjured up by the image.

Surging Surf black & white, Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine

Surging Surf black & white, Monument Cove, Acadia National Park, Maine

The answer, in short, is that the image holds some sort of particular meaning to the individual making the inquiry.

While the specifics represented are often different, the overarching notion of meaning is what infuses me as well when I select my favorite images.  All of my images conjure up memories for me–I can tell you a great deal about what I was experiencing when each image was made–but some hold more meaning to me than others.

Living History Farm, Kings Mountain State Park, South Carolina

Living History Farm, Kings Mountain State Park, South Carolina

All of the photographs accompanying this entry are among a broader set of images with special personal meaning to me.  I don’t know that they are necessarily among my “best” images–most, if not all, probably are not, in fact–but each represents something more to me than meets the eye.

Elliott Creek, Miner's Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Elliott Creek, Miner’s Beach, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

The same, in their own way, is true of images that resonate in a particular way with others.  Something about some of these shots represents something significant to someone; an intangible notion; a feeling; a certain je ne sais quoi.  And, that in a nutshell, is what an image of meaning is all about.  It’s something I feel lucky to stumble across when it arises in me and a sense of wonder when one of my images produces that response in someone else.

Earthshadow, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Earthshadow, White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

So, to come full circle, that’s an opportunity that would be lost if I culled my offerings.  I admit to wanting to selfishly experience that sense of wonder, vicariously, through the lives of others.  In these instances, the images may be mine, but the special meaning is the fortuitous product of the richness of someone else’s memories.


  1. I love your work! And, while I’ve not sold many photos, my experience has been much like yours, people purchase what touches them, not the technically best photos or the best known places.

    • Thanks! And you are undoubtedly correct; people gravitate toward imagery that moves them, regardless of the technical (or even, necessarily aesthetic) merits.

  2. This is so interesting how you are learning what works when creating your portfolio. It’s on my to-do list and i go back and forth whether to highlight just the 10 best per subject or to provide more offerings. Hearing your experience really helps.

    • Thanks very much, Emily.

      The judgment I came around to last year was that the gallery and portfolio approaches aren’t inherently mutually exclusive and ultimately serve different purposes. My goal is to avoid the ultimately self-defeating act of trying to “divide the baby” by having my cake and eating it too. (Sorry, I’m on metaphor overload. :))

  3. Thanks for the information! I am working on an archiving photo project and struggle with how many photos to keep from each trip (in my mind they are all great photos – ha!). Beautiful Captures – Have a Great One!

    • Thanks. It can be very, very difficult to pare down images. I’ve become increasingly better able to form judgments about what will “work” with the naked eye or through the viewfinder, without ever clicking the shutter, but better doesn’t mean infallible, so I still find myself less than inspired with some images when I view them on my computer monitor for the first time.

      And, as this entry suggests, my assessments aren’t set in stone. While a reassessment usually means a greater likelihood of dismissing something that I previously thought was worthwhile, occasionally the reverse is true; every once in awhile I end up finding an image that I had previously rejected that has–for want of a better way of describing it–grown on me. It’s rare, but it has happened and it’s for this reason that I almost never delete a RAW image that has made it far enough along to be downloaded to my hard drive.

  4. Sometimes change is good…. can’t wait to see what you have chosen. Love the introspect of your latest post. Seems rare to be honest and open about ones work… very refreshing.

    • Thanks very much, Mike.

  5. Interesting observations – I’ve become aware that some images appeal to me because of the memory they bring up but aren’t really interesting otherwise – and I try to watch myself, to catch that. What you said about people buying images with personal meaning makes absolute sense, though I think there are some out there who like an image for a more abstract reason – a minority though.

    • I agree that not everyone who purchases an image does so because it evokes a memory or something similar. For instance, I’ve had images purchased by people because they found a particular graphic pattern pleasing. But whether it’s sentiment or aesthetics (or something else entirely), the underlying consistency was an intangible personal inspiration of some sort.

  6. Your entire collection here is stunning, Kerry. But I’m simply blown away by Bond Falls (the mist!!) and Earthshadow. Wow!! 🙂

  7. Good thoughts; love the last image especially

    • Thanks very much, Tina.

  8. Beautiful and inspiring work, Kerry.

    • Thanks, Scott.

  9. Gorgeous photos!

    • Thanks very much!

  10. Truly stunning vistas and sensitive captures…. Really lovely.

  11. I can’t wait to see what you unveil! Love the photos and the writing for this post

    • Thanks very much; I really appreciate the kind words.

  12. Thoughtful post, Kerry. I remember the Earth Shadow photo; the post from that shoot was the first one I ever saw of your blog and inspired me to “follow” you – good decision!

    • Thanks, Lynn. That image is one of my favorites.

  13. Lovely photos!!!

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