Lee Nutter - Phnom Penh based Photographer

The essence of an imageJanuary 22, 2015

After a long day of working at a computer, and then a long night editing a difficult shoot (because there’s just too many good images to choose from!) my eyes needed a bit of a break. I lay down in bed, but as per usual, couldn’t get to sleep. I felt that perhaps a little Henry Miller might be in order so I picked up ‘Stand still like the hummingbird’ – the last of his books that I know to exist that I hadn’t yet read. In the eponymous last essay, he wrote:

“Language at best is but a poor means of communication; it is the soul speaking to the soul, the spirit informing speech, which gives words meaning.”

I do a bit of writing myself, but at this stage at least I’m more of a photographer, and so I can’t help but relate everything back to photography. I played devil’s advocate with myself and pondered on how photography might be at best a poor means of communication, and pretending for a minute that there was such a thing as a soul or essence, and a photograph had one too, what might it be?


As some of my friends well know, searching for an essence or soul is a bit of a fools errand, but that’s not going to stop me experimenting and having a little fun. Sometimes you just need an excuse to play around, so despite the wee hour that it was, I did a bit of brainstorming.

One train of thought lead me to extract slices of luminosity from a photograph and see what it might look like. Could the ‘essence’ of a photograph be found by extracting an exaggerated sliver of light from the histogram? And if so, what part of the histogram might I extract from? I played around a little, and saw that it looked kind of cool. And what’s more, it gave me a great excuse to make another animated gif.

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