Shadow plays existed for centuries in various cultures for a reason; it is an easy and imaginative way to tell stories to the masses. As children we have been playing with shadows because shadows allowed us to transform existing elements into new forms and bring our imagination to life.
Playing with shadows in photography opens a world of transformational visual energy.
By using shadows a scene can be altered in unlimited ways producing new visual qualities that gives the viewer a personal imaginative experience within the photograph.
Combining shadows in photography also enables the introduction of suspense and mystery. The easiest way to put it is perhaps using Alfred Hitchcock’s words “mystery is an intellectual process while suspense an emotional process “.
Mystery is an easier process to create in photography as one single image can create the feeling and the notion of mystery. Suspense of the other hand is a process that is more demanding in terms of applying it to a single photograph. ( in a video format suspense can be gradually built ), in photography on the other hand it is a process that is best applied through a series of photographs that have been careful sequenced.
This is not to say that a single image cannot have “suspenseful” qualities. The degree to which a suspense scene is managed and presented may also correspond to the level of the visual complexity within a frame. Motion is an excellent element that may be used to reinforce the idea of suspense, especially when combined with slow shutter speeds.