As a photographer myself, I have the opinion that music and photography are a very inspirational mixture. Not only is music important as a source of inspiration, it is also important as a guide on the street and should be embraced in the pictures as well. Here are some reasons, why You should try out an instrument Yourself and become creative in more than just photography.

Ansel Adams and his Piano ambitions

I hope You are familiar with the outstanding work of Ansel Adams. His black & white work, although not Street Photography, is still a great source of inspiration. The way he embraces the light makes his pictures almost look like paintings. They are carefully arranged and have a very unique atmosphere to them.

But did You know that instead of becoming a photographer, he was more focused on his musical career?

He was a very ambitious and successful piano player and attributes most of his success in the photography world also to his musical education. In music, or the piano there is no casual approximation, either You hit the right note, or You don’t. And if You don’t hit the right note then this is an obvious mistake.

With the same precision, he also tackled photography. If something was off in his pictures it was a simple failure and he wouldn’t publish them. Working very hard, to get that one picture that isn’t a failure has made him one of the best photographers of the 20th. century. Again, he attributes his discipline to his musical education, which also requires a lot of hard work to become a better piano player.

He also enjoyed listening to music while photographing. To him, it opened up a whole new world and it made him see shapes and other structures, that he wouldn’t see without the music. So as You can see, music definitely had a big impact on one of the best photographers that we had.

Ansel Adams Harvest Fieldwork Mount Williamson

So how can You use it in Your photography as well?

Music in Street Photography

Personally, I dislike listening to music while walking on the street. I feel that instead of opening new opportunities, it does distract my mind. In addition to that, I also believe that music and sounds are a very strong guide in Street Photography.

When walking through the streets, we are not using our eyes, to sense the next opportunity for a great shot. We are also smelling the street and listening to what happens around us.

As Bruce Gilden already stated: “If You can smell a Street Picture, it is a good photograph”.

Photography has to address a lot more senses than only the eyes and I feel that particularly Street Photography, which is often very gritty and direct, has to emphasize more than only the sense of seeing.

Music and Creativity

Apart from that more anecdotal stories, there are clear scientific evidences, that music helps artists to be more creative. Music has already been proven to have a positive effect on the memory and learning center of the brain. But now, there are also strong links between becoming more creative and listening to “upbeat” music.

The study was built upon testing the creativity of its subjects. They were either faced with absolute silence or had to fulfill the creative exercises while listening to classical music. The classical music was then categorized to evoke the distinct emotions of happiness, sadness, anxiety, or calmness.

After comparing the results, it has been shown, that the participants performed the best when they listened to the classical music, which should evoke happy emotions. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t even matter if the participants like the music. Their personal taste and preferences didn’t have any influence on the outcome. It was the happy classical music itself, which had a tremendous positive impact and let them perform better.

The researchers linked the better results to the overall mood and described, that the happy state of mind is ideal for performing creative tasks.

Sound Photography

In pop culture, the connection between music and movies is pretty obvious. I probably don’t need to emphasize how important the music is to create a special atmosphere.

But have You also seen similar projects, where there is a clear connection between the photographs and the music?

This is an approach that is rather unconventional and while it is pretty easy to run a slideshow with some background music and upload it on Youtube, there aren’t many exhibitions which follow this idea.

One initiative, that is focused on exploring the opportunities of connecting sound and photography is by Fowkes and his “Cities and Memories” project.

The aim of this project is to create a global map with sounds and photographs, that represent the city. It is an alternative representation compared to a simple map, which is rather dull. The Cities and Memories project aims to address the viewer more vividly and does create a lasting impression in doing so.

There is a clear connection between sound and feelings and this project does a great job of presenting it.

What does it mean for Your Photography

So what are the applications of the study and how can music improve Your photography?

If I would compare photography to sports, athletes are often listening to music before entering the competition. As a photographer, it probably also helps to listen to music before hitting the street.

As You can trust the study, it doesn’t even have Your favorite music, if You want to be more creative classical music, that evokes positive emotions is the best to let You be more creative.

Street Photography