How To Use Metaphor To Make Stronger Photographs

Zoomorphism animates and connects these images.


Photographs can often be well-crafted transcriptions of their subjects and nothing more. It’s usually that elusive ‘something more’ that makes great photographs, elevating them beyond craft to art. How can you bring more to your images? One way is to use a guiding metaphor.

What is a metaphor? In language, spoken or written, a simile implies a shared quality (This is like that.), while a metaphor states that two things are the same (This is that.). When a metaphor is used, it’s understood that poetic license is being taken. A metaphor isn’t used to create misinformation and confusion, it’s used to emphathetically draw attention to shared qualities.

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  • Ernie Notbert

    05.08.2022 at 22:59 Reply

    While your statement “Zoomorphism animates and connects these images.* applys to the final two fotos I am at a loss to see any such connection to the others. Can you help make the connection? TIA

  • johnpaulcaponigro

    14.08.2022 at 14:25 Reply

    The smaller icebergs at the waterline also suggest animal forms. This may have been more strongly felt if the order of presentation was reversed.

  • Meg Weston

    15.08.2022 at 09:45 Reply

    Interesting idea – the metaphor in a photograph. I wonder if you discover it or you intend it when you’re taking the picture?

    • johnpaulcaponigro

      20.08.2022 at 12:12 Reply

      As with writing, both can work … and discovering first can lead to more conscious follow ups.

  • Dave Hancock

    16.08.2022 at 12:21 Reply

    John Paul,

    New to your site. This article is what I am currently exploring in my own photography. I am just starting to find words for the feelings or emotions my photographs invoke. Is this something you practice? Possibly Keyword them so? Do you give your photographs Titles. I understand this series is for demonstration / discussion, but does it have a collection title? If not, could you suggest one?


    • johnpaulcaponigro

      20.08.2022 at 12:39 Reply

      Association, metaphor, and other kinds of thematic development are core features of my creative process. You can find more in my TEDx talk. After working with words very freely on paper or digitally, I add select keywords into my Lightroom library for search and organization. I do title my images; there’s an article on that in my online Library. (I’m too prolific to come up with good unique titles for everyone and don’t want to lead the viewer too strongly so my titles are usually a series title and the number of the order of their creation.) I also write artist’s statements, make audio and video remarks, and compose ekphrastic prose and poetry. This set of images is a selection from a larger series on Antarctica (Waking … as in straight shots) that highlights a subtheme (zoomorphism … which is a word that gathers pages of associations … bestiary, dragon, chimera, squid, leviathan, plankton, copepod … ) that supports the larger theme of treating land as a living space / an event that’s alive. In the three intertwined series (Antarctica Waking, Antarctica Dreaming, Antarctica Global Warning) I move around, into, and thorugh this larger idea in many ways.

  • Cemal Ekin

    17.08.2022 at 14:42 Reply

    The apple and the pepper are two of my favorite photographs. I even used them with full attribution in articles I have written or presentations I made. I am grateful to both photographers for their work and for showing us how to see.

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