Hennepin County Central Library, Minneapolis,MN (iPhone SE)

Sharing Light

Why do photos of light draw our “likes” and eyes?

Photos of light and shadow are some of the easiest pics to pass as ‘artsy.’ There is something about golden hour, white light, candle light, sunset and the glow of screens and lightbulbs that simple draws us.

While some may see it as a negative thing like a moth to flame, I think our attraction to light and pictures of light goes beyond a mere desire toward things that glow.

We like light because we crave contrast.

Sun coming through the blinds in my apartment

There is no golden hour without dusk. There is no white light without noir shadows. There is no candle light without smoky darkness and no sunset without a moon. Of course there is the sickly glow of fluorescents or the midnight oil glow of a laptop screen; not all light is attractive.

Still we live our days under light and seek it again when we are in the dark. It provides direct contrast and beauty to the things we see.

In many ways the contrast of light is similar to our desire to compare. Comparison is all about making ourselves look better. Lighten a photo and the details come forth. We throw shade on others to make ourselves brighter.

My bedroom shade

We photograph light to immortalize the shapes we see when things are pure, illuminated, fiercely real and good. That’s why Instagram has filters.

Strange though is the idea that we can’t look directly into every light source. We can emulate them with good engineering and smaller concentrations of light, but most optometrists would warn against looking directly into the sun.

It’s because the sun is the source and ideal of all the other lights we live by. It’s our example, archetype and ultimate contrast. No wonder the dark got such a bad reputation.

These photos of my apartment make me grateful for the lodging I have and the good sunny weather I can enjoy. It’s a contrast to being here in winter or having a place that didn’t let light in.

Photograph away and let the light in.

Like what you read? Give Katherine Kwong a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.