Nate Keyes: Personal Meaning in Photography

Presentation by Nate Keyes summarized by Eliot Kersgaard

As part of our 2017 Summer Internship program, we have asked each of our interns to prepare 15 minute presentations on topics of their choice to present to the team. The purpose of these presentations is to expand the knowledge base of our team, develop our interns rhetorical skills, and give us a chance to know each other better. We will be summarizing their presentations on Myra’s Musings for reference later and to help give an inside look into the operations of Myra Makes.

On June 29th, our presenter was Nate Keyes, who shared his thoughts on photography with us.

His guiding questions were: What makes a photograph amazing? How do we create personal masterpieces that may not be technically amazing?

First, what is the essence of photography?

The art form of capturing moments in time. At first, photographers weren’t thought of as artists, but over time, photographers began to test the limits of a camera and come up with unique and beautiful ways to capture events and images in ways that aren’t possible with other media.

Nate shared with us some images from his favorite photographers:


Paul Strand

“straight photography”


Ryan Brenizer, inventor of the Brenizer method

Photos from RyanBrenizer.com


Nowadays, with an amazing camera in nearly everyone’s pocket, there is so much photographic content available that it is becoming even more difficult to create new things. The flip side of this is that more and more people are feeling empowered as photographers!

So how do we create new content? People tend to start by mimicking the artists they are fond of at the time. This allows different themes to be explored and elaborated upon in new ways.

In addition to looking at the technical aspects of the photo, another way to create new content is by capturing the meaning behind the moment which you are photographing. Even when the photo might not be technically perfect, having the ability to convey the emotion and atmosphere of a moment can be a powerful way to share ideas and get people to think.

Nick Brandt is an example of a photographer that has been able to capture deep moments in the animal world, simply by visiting animals in their native environments and developing a sense of trust with them. Here are some examples of the shots he’s been able to capture as a result:

Ron Magill is another example of a naturalist photographer which is able to uniquely capture moments in time in order to tell a story. Here is an example of a very famous photo he took at the Miami Zoo during Hurricane Andrew:

While this photo is a technical nightmare, the story it tells is funny absolutely unique. You have to make sure not to miss the moment being caught up in the technicality of photography!

Nate identified three technical dials to become accustomed with to develop your photographical skills:



Shutter speed

If you become familiarized with how each of these affects the photos you take, you can start to experiment with different styles of photography to find something that captures your style and tells the story you want to tell.


About the Author:

Eliot Kersgaard is an artist, educator and entrepreneur working to facilitate a cultural shift emphasizing justice and play. He is the founder and director of Myra Makes.

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