Visual Allegory

While building my latest series, Dias de los Muertos, I discovered that what I enjoy doing most right now is visual allegory. An allegory is an extended metaphor, or a story with two meanings. One meaning is literal; and the other meaning is symbolic. An allegory involves using many interconnected symbols or visual actors in such a way that nearly every element within the narrative has a meaning beyond its literal level.

Each piece becomes a contributing member within the series as a whole. Although each piece can stand alone, its full meaning is best derived from its context within the complete storyline. Like a story, there is a beginning, a middle, and an end. There may also be subplots which contribute their own unique meanings and movements. These subplots attempt to work in support of the central theme or series movement; sometimes through contrasting, conflicting symbols of line, shape, and color; sometimes through enhancing symbols of complimentary form and color.

I first start with an appropriate background which I build as a template. This is then used throughout the series to tie it together and give it a consistent look. I then select and place the actors on the individual pieces in the series. The selection process is determined in advance in order to contribute to the plot or subplot.

The allegorical actors are the interconnected symbols within each series piece. These actors are crops of photos I have taken to date during my travels. For me, the photo is not the end; it is the beginning. I harvest appropriate actor candidates from within my extensive Lightroom catalog for inclusion within each piece. Symbol position dictates the degree of tension and conflict between the various actors.

Color is a major player within my allegories and is used to set tonality on many levels. Each viewer experiences his own subjectively charged reaction to the colors used in an image which can impact his impressions. But color can also be its own unique form as well. Color as form can add another viewing dimension and introduce yet another actor that must interact with the other actors in the image.

Visual allegories are best viewed as a progression from beginning to end. The viewer is asked to use his imagination in order to find his own enjoyable and meaningful connection with the images presented. The goal is not to use a hammer to drive home a specific message, but rather, the use of the power of suggestion. This way, universality can be allowed to flourish.