Naturalist Photography Examples

Jennifer Betts

Naturalist Photography at Work

Naturalist photography strives to represent the working class, particularly individuals working the land and enjoying pastimes. These simple photos tell a story about the people or things within them, but with an artistic flair. Photos representative of this era were taken from 1860 to 1890, but many reproduce the style today. While those who use this photography style in Europe are called naturalist photographers, those in the United States are often called pictorialists.

Arlington Funeral

This image shows a funeral procession in the Arlington National Cemetery. The lack of modern elements and the simplistic nature of the photograph are what make it an example of naturalist photography. It shows the funeral procession in a simple, straightforward manner, but it is still telling a story of the military procession, leaving the viewer with questions about the fallen soldier.

Abandoned Wagon

Naturalist photography isn't faked or commercial. Looking at this wagon, you wonder about the life of the passengers and how their journey ended. The flow of the tumbleweeds around it give a desolate and lonely vibe. Did their journey end badly? To get this type of image, you want to keep the focus on your subject. You aren't worried about the background or the landscape; the wagon becomes the central focus.

Abandoned Vehicle

This abandoned vehicle after Hurricane Katrina is a newer example of naturalist photography. Not only does it give the viewer a small glimpse into the devastation, but you can see the ongoing problems demonstrated through the rust and abandoned feel of this lonely vehicle. The black-and-white image helps to create a naturalist feel. This image is also cropped so that you are focused on the vehicle for maximum impact. If the field of view was a bit wider, that would be lost.

Comanche Dress

The point of the image is not the person or what they are doing, but to show the intricate dress of the culture. It documents an important part of this society. Adding the face might have taken away from the detail and importance of the dress itself. Therefore, when creating naturalist photography, you really want to think about how to frame an image and where the focus should be.

Sea Captain

Naturalist photographs capture the beauty of everyday elements like this sea captain. The dramatic lighting adds to his allure and his steely gaze feels like it is piercing straight into your soul. Naturalist photography uses several elements to create a dramatic image. Here you can see the lighting plays a large role in adding mystery and intrigue to the subject. Using dramatic lighting can make all the difference.

Old Windmill

Again, you can see how the dramatic lighting effects and the stark contrast of black and white create interest in this old windmill composition. This helps to create aesthetic value to the photograph, making it more like a painting of life rather than documentation. It sparks the imagination, making onlookers wonder what happened next.

Senior Woman

This image emphasizes the artistic beauty that naturalist photography can hold. The lighting makes the years etched along the woman's face stand out on the screen. There is beauty in her wrinkles and the struggles that she has endured in life. Using a primary source of light on your subject can improve naturalist photography. This helps to deliver a stark contrast in your images.

Tribal Woman

Sometimes beauty is found in the color and contrast of the photograph. While black and white can bring contrast, bright colors can elicit emotion in the viewer. This tribal woman with her elaborate, colorful headdress and her bold jewelry create an alluring photograph. The viewer is left wondering more about who she is.

Vietnam Rice Paddies

Whether your subject is working in the rice paddies in Vietnam or simply a wagon train lost in tumbleweeds, naturalism brings an alluring beauty to a picture that is different from photojournalism. Naturalism uses the subject as almost a piece of art, telling the story of the subject and leaving the viewer wanting for more.

Creative approaches to photography can take on many forms. These styles can then be applied to different scenarios, like engagement shoots or commercial product photography.

Jennifer Betts
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Naturalist Photography Examples