There is much beauty to be found in the simple photographs we take of ourselves and others; more often than not, client and commissioned shoots satisfy any photographer’s creative thirst. However, it’s important to acknowledge the enormous amount of beauty that floats in the very depths of the photography realm, a place where emotions thrive and collide. There, vulnerability is in charge; memories, thoughts, and stories continuously work together in this factory of feelings. The results differ from person to person, though one similarity remains: everything that vulnerability creates carries with it a meaningful and heartwarming honesty.
Vulnerability is defined as “the quality of being exposed to the possibility of being harmed.” Naturally, such a statement doesn’t appeal to the mind. In fact, the state of being vulnerable sounds so emotionally fragile that we’re tempted to avoid it altogether. It’s not unusual to be intimidated by the idea of exposing one’s weaknesses. It’s normal to be frightened of a mindset that promises harm. But what if you were told that the aforementioned definition was incomplete? In the world of art, vulnerability has a slightly different meaning: the quality of being exposed to the possibility of encouraging others to be their true selves by sharing one’s honest humanness. Letting fellow human beings know that flaws, weaknesses and powerful emotions aren’t something to be ashamed of.
The concept of vulnerability might remind people of tears and darkness, but there’s much more to it than discomfort. As the revised definition explains, vulnerability has the potential to encourage natural human growth and create the knowledge that no one on this earth is an outcast because of their emotions. If we lived in a fictional world where only revealing one’s cheerful side was allowed, we wouldn’t know if anyone else had the same self-conscious thoughts as us. We’d be isolated on a land of doubt, and unhappiness would slowly begin to grow somewhere in the depths of our hearts. Thus, it’s exceedingly important to share the many sides of life in ways that are comfortable to us.
If you have a desire to share your story in whichever way you see fit, then the only thing preventing you from doing so is the fear of being vulnerable. Oftentimes, fear is disguised as the notion of fate; it sneakily chokes our wishes and makes us bitter. It tells us that if we’re being stopped, if we doubt ourselves, then we aren’t meant to encourage a single soul. The way to get rid of this, as you may already know, is through art. Wishing strangers a great day or sharing an uplifting passage from a book are simple yet powerful ways of letting others know that they’re not alone. To do this artistically, you can come up with relatable concepts that you yourself care about. A portrait of you finding a glowing item in an abandoned house, or a photograph of light entering a room that has been neglected for too long, both symbolize hope in times of darkness. Though these ideas aren’t shared in the form of private diary entries, they’re just as powerful.
There are many photographers who write stories for their conceptual images, ones which they share in description sections for the entire online world to read. This is when the idea of harm might enter people’s minds: what if someone judges my lifestyle, concept, or way of expressing myself? What if my emotions are laughable? While there’s no definite way to avoid these thoughts, it’s possible to beat them by going straight into the cloud of doubts. Upon entering the haze, you’ll realize how easy it is to swat those thoughts – from a distance they seemed daunting, yet up close they’re just a swarm of paper flies in disguise.
When seen by other people, honesty blooms and teaches them something profound about themselves. This is why, as artists, we must be encouraged to produce and share our vulnerabilities in ways that feel right to us. By doing this, we will allow others to see their own selves in the emotions we bravely share, compelling them to grow. Though we’re not magicians, we’re able to create something close to magic: a movement, no matter how weak, that drives the world forward. A movement that, when consistently repeated by many, changes the world.