Faceless Musicians Inner Emotions

The faces behind the music

What would a photographer do if they weren't taking pictures? This question was asked by Bill Jay, author of the essay The Thing Itself, which talks about finding a deeper meaning in an image . From what I gathered from the essay, photographers are spectators of the world meaning they strive to take these amazing photographs to please their viewers. There is a reason we are attracted to a particular subject matter. For me, it’s being able to capture portraits of people with some kind of story behind them because of the technique I use in each one of my photographs. I try to use some sort of color to portray the mood of the subject and focus on taking the photograph from a different angle or perspective instead of straight on.

Going back to the question that was asked in the beginning, I would play some sort of instrument because I have the same appreciation for that medium as I do for photography. There is just a certain beauty and appreciation for being able to read and play music that gets me. It is liking having a special gift which is what it feels like for photography. This also goes along with my subject matter, hidden musicians. There are reasons why I took the images that I did and the reason why I used the elements that I used.

What would you be doing if you weren't in the profession you are currently?

Introducing the musicians

Austin Enyeart, violin

This particular instrument is probably my favorite. I wanted to create this atmosphere that hid most of the musician's face and focused on the violin. I wanted to focus on the posture of the individual and the emotion that comes from playing this type of music. The lighting that I chose to use is a sort of spotlight that highlights the violin rather than the individual playing it. With the two colors, they both create a loud yet soft tone that goes with the different tempos in the music. What surprised me the most about this particular series was the individual that played this instrument because his looks. This aspect is something I wanted to avoid and beauty I wanted to present; the hidden face of the musician.

Jesse Wilhelmon, electrical guitar

Of the three shoots, this one was probably the hardest because I didn't know the direction I wanted to go in. I knew for sure the color I wanted to use, which was green, because of how energetic the music is and the look of the musician when they play this type of music. I knew for sure that I wanted these series of images to look vastly different. After looking at them all, I realized that the harsh lighting from the flash goes along with creating this harsh overexposed look. I was once told that the projects that struggle with the most will be the ones that turn out the best. This series turned out the best because of the use of light, color, and the "vibe" that was created because of other techniques I used during the shoot.

Kyle Cameron, ukulele

With my photography, I like capturing these unique angles that nobody else thinks of capturing. This particular shoot and the other guitar shoot, it is important to capture the perspective of what the musician is doing or seeing from their perspective. I also wanted to create a soft air feel to these series of images since the ukulele has a calm peaceful tone. The lighting reflects this by not being too harsh or too bright. Within the image, there are multiple leading lines that lead the viewer to the hidden musician and his instrument. Out of the three instruments I photographed, this is the one I knew how to play, a little, so it was the one I knew how to project the emotion well.

From several of my photography classes, my professors have told me to dig deeper into what makes a portrait a portrait. There are multiple answers to this question. What everyone thinks of when they think of a portrait is of a person with their face present in the frame of the image as well as capturing what the subject is doing. To me, a portrait doesn’t necessarily have to show who the subject is as long as there is a human touch, if that makes sense. In a couple of series I did at the end of the semester last year and at the beginning of the semester this year, I started hiding the faces of my subjects because I wanted to create a sort of mystery as to who the person was.

As defined by the author of the textbook we used for class, Robert Hirsch talks about the concept symbolism which emphasizes an emotion or sensation captured in a photograph that can make the viewer feel a particular way . Like I talked about before, I wanted to incorporate some sort of color aspect in my series because I wanted to create an emotional connection with the music and the subject matter. I feel like it is very important to create some sort of symbolic meaning in my images because it gives them their own unique meaning.

John Szarjowski author of the book Introduction To The Photographic Eye talks about elements that make up an image. Szarjowski brings up four characteristics that analyzed when looking at a photograph. These are the thing itself, perception of detail, the framing of the image, and time. In the project we were assigned in class, everyone should have used the thing itself because it further looks into what the image is trying to get across to the viewer, which also includes the other three elements Szarjowski talks about.

From this project, I was able to improve my photography because we were taught to find a deeper meaning in our photographs. With the use of the four characteristics in my images, each series presents an interesting take as to what a portrait is or can be. Being able to tell a story with my images is what I stride for and I strongly believe I did this, and more, with this series of images.


Jay, B. (1988). The Thing Itself. (n.d): 1-7. PDF. Web. Retrieved from http://www.caaap.org/billJayTheThingItselfItself.pdf

Robert Hirsch, Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography, (2nd ed.) New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009), p. 144

Huge McCabe. Introduction To The Photographers Eye-John Szarkowski (1996). https://tracesofthereal.com/2010/02/21/introduction-to-the-photographers-eye-john-szarkowski-1966/

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Victoria Thompson

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