Capturing Souls in Photographs
The eyes are the windows of the soul, indeed! Yes, her eyes really are that color and those are lichens on the ground in this beautiful natural setting.
Photo copyright by Aislinn Bailey, AisPortraits.com, Niceville, Florida
Some cultures believe (or did initially) that a photographer could steal your soul if he took pictures of you. I’m not sure about “stealing,” but I now believe that it is entirely possible to capture a soul in a photograph—or if not the soul, then certainly the “energy” of the person. After observing a few experiments with energy work, courtesy of an interview subject I’ll call “Ruby,” I will never look at Facebook or MySpace profile pics in quite the same way.Though I’ve always loved photography and dabbled in it myself when I was younger, I’ve been blessed to have five professional photographers come into my life within the past year, plus my daughter joined their ranks over the summer. I love looking at their portrait work, and I sometimes feel like a stalker because I can’t stop looking at their beautiful photographs. They have a special way of capturing the personality of each subject. Yet, with professional photos, it’s usually more of the personality than the soul that is captured, in much the same way that a statue or oil painting captures the famed of the past.
My latest experiment seemed to reinforce that professional photos are manipulated too much really to show the soul (vs personality) of that person at the moment. Instead, they seem to show the energy of the photographer because these portraits become partnerships between photographer and subject. The subject often assumes a posture suggested by the photographer, a tilt of this head this way or that, just the right lighting, and—if all else fails—a few deft minutes on the Adobe PhotoShop CS3 or CS4 to add sparkle to the eye or depth of color to the cheeks. Not that a professional photographer can’t capture a soul, but whereas personality can be captured by a professional, the soul is usually best seen through candid shots, particularly those god-awful camera phone or webcam pics. A professional photographer will make every attempt to make a person look good, regardless of the state of the subject’s soul at a given moment, whether joyous or troubled.
These photo experiments began when Ruby, who often works with radionics and psionics, asked if I had a photograph of someone we were participating in a healing circle for. We didn’t know what was wrong with the guy but he’d been feeling lethargic with no obvious clue as to why. I grew up seeing pictures in Baptist church bulletins or on the walls of Sunday School rooms where we noted who was sick or in need each week and prayed for them. The photographs aided the prayers for healing because they allowed the prayer committee to focus better on the person and visualize them as they were when they were in good health. None of this is scientific, at least not in the classical sense, though it may one day be better explained via zero-field theory. However, for spiritual people who work regularly with energy—whether Christian, Wiccan, or some other religion—the nuances of the unseen connections between people are enjoyed without prejudice.
What Ruby, who is a “highly sensitive person” to the extreme, did was to pull out a pendulum and let it swing casually over the photograph. It was a recent photo, and a full-body view. The pendulum swung wide and then in small intense circles as she moved her hand over the photograph. She asked me to write down the results of her own interaction with the energy she felt from the photo. So as I interviewed her, she interviewed the photo—and I merely watched the pendulum twirl clockwise or straight or counterclockwise in answer to her questions.
The dowsing went on for almost 1.5 hours. Ruby asked a long assortment of questions that covered everything from the psychological to the sexual to the gastro-intestinal to things I’d never heard of. I never saw her hand waver once, though if it had been me, I think my fingers would have been cramping within five minutes. I was fascinated by her process and took copious notes. She would ask how in-balance certain chakras were and work from there to see how close on a scale of 1-100 the person was to total vitality. On ones that were out of balance, she’d use a different scale to find the magnitude of particular problems, looking especially at barriers to vitality.
Ruby uncovered a host of minor problems that were a drain to our friend’s health—and by the way, he’d given permission to do any kind of prayer or energy work for him so he’d feel better. These minor problems were all rather normal except for two that were extremely high: parasites and heavy metals. She asked me to pass along the information to our friend, which I did. He reported later that he’d gone through a detox program for parasites and later heavy metals and that after the heavy metal detox, he’d felt particularly good again. He’d regained his energy.
That was my first experience with this sort of thing.
The next time, Ruby noticed a photo in my home of another old friend of mine. It was an old photo, taken at a time when he was still married to his first wife, and he appeared quite happy and all-smiles in this great candid shot at the beach. There was always something about the photo that bothered me, but I could never put my finger on it. She commented on some things going on in his life at the time the photo was taken, things she couldn’t have known, but the photo felt that way in spite of the smiles.
According to Ruby, the energy of the person (not to be confused with personality) is something that she can feel in a picture. Couldn’t I feel it, too, to some degree? she wanted to know.
The short answer was yes. I could look at the picture with all the smiles and fun and there was just something…off…about it. There was a sadness there, a sense of loss. Always had been. There were problems in his marriage at the time. But I’d never really thought about it. When I relaxed and let my mind wander, I could almost sense his energy in the photograph. There was a certain sadness in the eyes, in spite of the smile. I think anyone who looked closely enough would have spotted it.
“Do you have other photos of him?” Ruby asked. When I told her I didn’t have any recent ones, she suggested we search for his image on Google.
We found it. I tested her belief that I, too, could feel his soul in this picture. He was smirking in this one but there was a heaviness around it. He was smiling but his eyes weren’t. I didn’t know what had happened to him, but one look and I could tell he was in trouble—even if it hadn’t been a mug shot.
We found another photo of him online. Not a professional photographer’s work, but a decent photo. He looked nice, dressed up, professional. But there was a deep feeling of darkness and oppression in this photograph. He still looked much the same as when he’d been a close friend, but looking at his picture, I didn’t even recognize him. I felt no connection at all. It was as if I were looking at a stranger.
Ruby suggested I check out other photos to see if I could discern the state of the soul of someone I hadn’t seen in a long time and didn’t have a current history on. In a way, it was fun because I got the hang of it quickly, yet it was too often very sad and I stopped after two or three tries.
I looked up several friends from the past and, regardless of the smiles, either their traumas or their hardness showed through the eyes. Even if they were the picture of health, the feeling of oppression was still there. These were clearest in quickly snapped camera phone photos and especially in webcams pics. Some of these people had changed so much that I felt no connection of friendship to them at all anymore. They looked much as I remembered but they felt like strangers. I decided not to reach out to re-acquaint myself. As an empath, I just felt too sad whenever I looked at their images.
There was one, though, that struck me differently. I had not seen the woman in years, but she looked 10 years younger than the last time. Back then, she’d been married to an alcoholic who abused her regularly. In her new Facebook picture, she was laughing in the rain, drenched by a nearby car’s pounding through a puddle, but literally dancing. Even if the photo had been of only her face, her smile was magnificent. It went all the way up into her eyes and lit up the screen. Absolute joy radiated from the photo. When I reached out to her, I found out she’d left her husband, gone through counseling, started a new life, and was enjoying every minute of what the world has to offer.
Some photos capture the appearance. Others, the personality. The ones that capture the soul, though, can tell a sensitive person exactly how you’re doing and how life’s treating you.
Not sure how I found this, but it’s really interesting.
As a professional photographer, I am always on a quest to capture some real essence of my subjects, I guess you could call it the soul. I try not to make the shot about me, because as you are correct in saying, this takes from the true nature of the person – and it’s always the true candid shots that give me the most emotion when looking at them later (though I do need to do thew ‘nice’ ones too:)
An example of one that’s a little of both
and one that’s
Thx, Sean! I checked out your site and wow, the photos are great! You have a beautiful eye. I’ll send my daughter over to check out your site, too. 🙂