In a universal language that needs no words, we talk a lot with our hands. We express anger and adoration, frustration and support. We raise fists in defiance and solidarity, open hands to the heavens or fold them silently in prayer.
Like our lips, our hands say what’s in our heart. For some without speech, their hands speak what their words cannot.
I am an observer of body language and human emotions, listening with my eyes for what people are saying to each other without words. Subtle, easy-to-miss expressions like the rolling of eyes or wink of support communicates much. A comforting hand on a shoulder or quiet, supporting pat on the back—small storytelling gestures—have always interested me most.
Sometimes our hands are roadmaps of our lives. I remember a man with large, calloused, bear-like hands. He laughed, lifted his hands, looked at them, then said, “They are all I got to make a living with.”
With such emphasis on social distancing, it is more critical than ever to remember we are touch beings. We need comforting healing touch, even if expressed through our eyes.
When I am unable to sleep, reaching over and placing my hand on my wife’s back is often enough to calm and soothe me, allowing me to fall asleep.
Make a picture of hands that reveals character or makes a statement. Consider contrast—like aged, wrinkled, time-worn hands that have served decades juxtaposed against the small, soft, new-life hands of a baby or toddler. Or perhaps a working-hands theme is in order. Giving the hands something cherished or familiar to hold—perhaps a tool of their trade—often helps makes a photograph come alive.
Photographing hands is not easy. Artists have told me human hands are the most difficult body part to draw. As with most pictures, the angle and quality of light greatly determine the impact of your photograph—and that requires anticipating an action. To show size or scale, try photographing above the hands. To show texture—lines, wrinkles and creases—consider using sidelight.
To share your work, email your best image with caption information and explain how it affects you to GPH@pur.coop. We may share the best submissions on our website and social media channels.