2021 WEEK 9: The Curiosity Gap

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. – Albert Einstein

Rocky Mountain Dawn by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero The silhouette of the distant shore creates a curiosity gap because although the outlines of the trees and hills are recognizable to the viewer, the details are hidden in the shadows.

The concept of the curiosity gap is well-known to marketers and copywriters (“click bait” is a particularly annoying form of this), but as photographers we can use the curiosity gap to encourage our viewers to engage more fully with our images. Put very simply, the goal for this challenge is to leave the viewer wanting to know more about some aspect of your image.

Social Distancing by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero
Social Distancing by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero Fog is one way to “hide” parts of your image and create a sense of mystery. What is out there in the distance? What is just over the rise?

I was first introduced to the concept in a video by Sean Tucker interviewing street photographer Joshua K Jackson. In Joshua’s words (at the 9:00 mark):

“Essentially the curiosity gap is creating a hole or space that the viewer needs to fill in some way. You drive the desire in them to want to learn more. And what we can do as photographers… is hold some of the information back from the viewer that pushes them to lean in to learn more about what’s going on… What we’re trying to do is mask the obvious from the viewer.”

Sunkissed by Tonya Bender Shooting through a piece of glass smeared with a thin layer of Vaseline (petroleum jelly) helps to abstract any scene and add a curiosity gap.

A quick scroll through Joshua’s Instagram feed shows the many ways in which he creates curiosity gaps in his photos. These techniques should not be new to followers of this photo challenge – the links below bring you to some of our prior challenges:

Through the door – Stephan Harmes Notice the use of selective focus to tell us what the subject is. The vast majority of the photo is out-of-focus and yet it works because it feels like we are peering through a crack in a door and want to know more about what’s on the other side.

While we’ve had photo challenges for all of these techniques in the past, approaching them with the intent to create a curiosity gap for the viewer is not something I’ve consciously attempted before. To complete this challenge, you can use one of the techniques above or come up with your own ideas. A couple of other concepts that I can think of are:

Faceless Portrait by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero Even though I took this photo, I’m curious to know: What’s hiding beyond the bend in the road? What photo opportunities await? (And why aren’t I wearing any gloves? LOL)

This week’s challenge summary:

  • Take a photo with the intent to mask the obvious from the viewer and arouse their curiosity.
  • For those of you who have COVID restrictions in place, one way to approach this challenge would be to find a photo in Joshua’s repertoire that you particularly like and then identify the elements that speak to you and try to imagine how to create those elements in a more controlled (indoor) environment. You can do a self-portrait or substitute dolls, pets or stuffed animals for people if that is an important element for you.
  • When commenting on others’ photos this week, feel free to mention what questions come to mind and/or what story line you might have made up to fill-in the missing information.
  • Post your photo during the week of Sunday, February 28 and Saturday, March 6.

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Take a new photo for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Post your photo each week to our active communities on Facebook or Flickr (or both). Tag the photo: #2021photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2021 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

About thedigitaljeanie

I’m a self-taught photographer and way back when I used to love taking photos, but I allowed a business that I started in 2004 to take over my life and my photographic repertoire was reduced to quick product shots and how-to tutorials. When I joined the PhotoChallenge in December 2015, I was looking to rekindle my creativity and bring some joy back into my photography. I jumped in with both feet and have not looked back. I believe that photography can change the way we see and interact with the world around us. Some people may think that I hide behind the camera, but I feel that I experience the world in a much more intimate way when I am creating a composition in my viewfinder. In those moments distractions disappear, my mind focuses and I am fully present. It is just me and my camera capturing a moment in time that might otherwise go unnoticed. My background is as varied as the photos that I take. I’ve trained and worked as a software engineer, a massage therapist, an English teacher in Vietnam, a photo restoration artist (which is how I learned Photoshop) and for the past twelve years I have run a small software business with my husband where I have been published in numerous books and magazines, appeared on PBS television, created designs for fabric, quilts and machine embroidery and won awards for some of my quilts. It should come as no surprise that I am intensely curious about life and love to learn new things. I am blessed to live in the beautiful state of Colorado, USA in the Rocky Mountain foothills outside of Fort Collins with my husband and cat. You can find me online at: Photos: flickr.com/photos/the-digital-jeanie/ Day job: KaleidoscopeCollections.com Facebook: facebook.com/jeaniesa