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Thoughts on Bach's Christmas Oratio and Photography

by Editor Wicher Bos

The title is of course bit of a jest, but also carries a deeper thought…


Don't worry, be happy!) by Tatiana Gorilovsky


Visual poetry is a common term, we had several articles about it in this magazine... but the term visual music is rarely heard. Visual music refers to the use of musical structures in visual imagery, Wikipedia says, the original definition of the term, was coined by Roger Fry in 1912 to describe the work of abstract painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

Do you ever compare a photo to music?
I rarely do, why is that?
Came to think about this while listening to an analysis of a music piece composed by Bach... 
There are so many similarities in terms used; just think of: pattern, rhythm, repetition, colour, tone, shape, form, line, balance, harmony, dissonance, or dominance.

And there is another similarity.
Emotional responses to music are influenced by individual experiences, expectations, memories and associations, in fact exactly what is said about emotional triggers by photographs. Visual music and abstract film or video often coincide, probably because time flows in both music and film, yet in a photograph time is frozen, no matter what we try to overcome that.

Bach is known as one of the world’s greatest composers ever. Composing and composition are words used in both worlds, music and photography. Composing means rules, Bach’s music has lots of symmetry and inversion, while following rather strict rules. On the other hand, at moments, there is a surprise - something unexpected, that makes us listeners wake up - sit straight – and feel ‘what ’s going on - what’s happening’ …exactly what you would do in a successful photo. Moreover, Bach made people feel – and it are feelings of all time – joy, mourning, anger, etc. again exactly what you hope for in a photo.

I believe these psychological mechanisms are exactly the same in both arts. Photography has its rules… and the greatest photographers apply them, but add these little elements of surprise, and are able to trigger with their work that authentic feeling of joy or sadness.

Back to Bach
In 1734 Bach wrote a master piece, the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, and in view of the season I thought let’s find some photographs that go well with the Christmas narrative. All of you know, the main ingredients of this history are birth and some shepherds.

So here you have it, some incredible images with those words, all of them have the special ingredients I mentioned, triggering interest to carefully look and authentic feelings.




'Vegetable reproduction' by Nermin Smajić



'Birth – South Sudan' by Eliza Deacon



'This is the Miracle of Life' by Yvette Depaepe



'no words to describe the feeling' by Piet Flour



'Birth of a butterfly by Mascha van Lynden



'Hi mummy' by Gert van den Bosch

Let’s add a bit of surrealism, just to make us even more aware of the miracle of birth and life…


'Natus In Aeternum' by Michael Bilotta



'Primordial Soup' by Christophe Kiciak



'In Shadows' by Manish Lakhani



'The Life in Dust' by Manish Lakhani



'The flock in the fog' by Vahid Yavari



n/t by Joxe Inazio Kuesta Garmendia



'Frozen in time' by Saskia Dingemans



'Filofteia with her cat and lamb' by Julien Oncete



'Milhaesti village' by Julien Oncete


Let’s finish this series of images appropriately, with the Angel perspective ;)


'Shepherd Group' by  å¤©ç¥º TIANQI


Visual music is not an easy subject, but as always, I just express my personal views and feelings… also in selecting these specific images. Any thoughts about visual music? Please put them in the comments, I am very interested.

Wicher Bos


Read more about composing visual music? Here is what I found.


Very impressive and touching article , Wicher . Unfortunately I discovered it 1 year later ,but it means a lot to me. and a huge thanks for choosing my picture . Merry christmas and a healthy 2021. . Sas
Great article Wicher. I had never consciously associated photography and music before, but you certainly have enlightened me and opened my mind to the reality. Best regards, Patrick
Thank you Patrick! :)
Listening to music while editing an image can be most inspiring. Not really a comparison between music and photography, but pretty close. This is a great article about visualizing 'music', Wicher. Thanks and congratulations to all the authors of the selected images. Cheers, Yvette