- April 23, 2019 at 4:39 am #401877
There has been a lot of talk about it recently people seeing a story or not in an image.
The basis of storytelling is context. I do not remember if it was the Russian film director Eisenstein or Kulechov who first (well at least first for me) showed already in the 1920’s that context is everything.
What do you show and how do you show it determines how you interpret the image.
Clearly number 13. Oh no….
Unfortunately, I may only upload one image per post. So look below.
- April 23, 2019 at 4:46 am #401878
It can also be a B.
Depending on what you show next to your subject, you interpret what you see.
It is that simple.
So does every picture tell a story? Sure. But not all stories are interesting. How many books did you put aside because the story was not interesting enough? And how many times did you zap away from a TV movie? Possibly more than you can count. But they all told stories. You just did not like them enough to hold your interest.
- April 23, 2019 at 7:06 am #401908
- April 23, 2019 at 8:48 am #401918
Escher works a little different but definitely comes to mind.
Escher shows everything but depending on where your focus is, you see something different.
- April 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm #401975
Interesting thoughts Erik.
- April 23, 2019 at 1:55 pm #401991
- April 24, 2019 at 10:11 pm #402180
And don’t advertisers milk this to the nth degree. Eg: the Fedex logo with the hidden arrow subconciously telling us ‘moving forward’.
- April 26, 2019 at 10:07 pm #402541
Graham Hart: I must be “lost” what hidden arrow?
- April 25, 2019 at 4:44 pm #402289
composition with red, blue and yellow by mondrian is a piece of artwork that doesn’t tell a story unless you’ve been off of your meds for awhile. whether you like it or not, it at least holds enough interest to still be talked about nearly 100 years later.
sometimes there is no story but you still find the composition interesting. sometimes there is a story and the photo or artwork still sucks. the presence of stories and interest isn’t bound by a cause and effect type of relationship.
- April 27, 2019 at 12:48 am #402565
I had never noticed the “arrow” before. Now I see it. Thanks, Graham. Dorothy, it’s between the large E and the x…
- April 27, 2019 at 10:04 am #402595
Could it be as simple as the picture basically sucks contains little of interest and our intrepid snapper to prove he/she is a REAL fotograffa invents a story hoping like hell no one will notice the shortcomings of the image?
A series of shots can certainly tell a story but how the hell can a single 100th second slice of real life tell a story? Unless you have had a damn fine toke of some superior weed it cannot. Ones imagination however can fill in any gaps for the snapper or the viewer.
- April 28, 2019 at 3:09 am #402660
Oh Billy, Billy, Billy…….what are we to do with you my friend? Although I greatly admire your ‘honest to a fault’ critiques, I cannot get onboard with your take on ‘stories’ in photography. Methinks you’ve been looking through those psychedelic glasses for far too long. Perhaps some clearer lenses will allow you to see more of the bigger picture. There are none so blind as those who will not see my cynical friend. At the risk of stirring a hornet’s nest, I offer these words…
It’s not the snapper who invents a story. He/she merely captures an image because they saw something there in that moment. Something which resonates in some way with their own life experience perhaps. Posting it onto a forum for critical comment doesn’t mean they are trying to be something they’re not. They’re simply sharing an experience they had, a moment in time which they thought worthy of recording. The stories (note plural) are created in the mind of the viewer.
Let’s take Elin’s recent post “First Spring Landscape” as an example;
Even a simple plain landscape can trigger a response in us through shared emotions of a similar experience. That feeling of fresh air, open space, freedom and beauty. We smell that air, we feel the fresh cooling breeze as we look into the distance. We wish we were there. We’ve all had a similar experience at some time or another I’m sure.
The story is revealed to the viewer through this emotion, this familiarity with the ‘snappers’ experience at that moment. That 1/100th of a second. ‘Story’ doesn’t mean “Sven came around the bend as he yodelled happily and came upon a majestic lake which trailed off into the distant snow-covered hills on a crisp clear day. As the echos returned to greet him, he smiled in contentment.” The story is in the emotion we feel when we see an image.
You appear to associate the term ‘story’ with people’s attempts to prove they’re ‘real photographers’. What has that got to do with anything? Anyone who takes photographs IS a photographer. I don’t really see the need to make a distinction between professional and amateur unless your premise is that only professional’s pictures tell stories and amateurs take snaps with no story? But this would destroy your entire arguement about ‘stories’ so I assume you’re saying that even professional photographers images don’t tell stories?
The people who took these pics would disagree with you I’m sure.
Awaiting your return of serve mate 🙂
- April 28, 2019 at 6:09 am #402667
Emotions when we view an image? Yea I’ll go along with that to a certain extent but the picture has to be something special to trigger that in most folks. Elin’s fota was and is damn good and I would have been a proud bunny to have taken that but no way does it make me smell mountain air or put a jacket on because the terrain looks chilly. That’s all in ya head my man. If its there and you need it to enjoy looking at pictures well that’s fine mate but people dreaming up feelings emotions etc convinces no one.
Can you really take it seriously when a picture of some railway lines “make me wonder where those tracks lead”. Cum on! Look at the frigging departures board if you really care. Surely I’m not the only one here who rolls about on the floor kicking his legs in the air screaming with laughter when someone comes out with such crap.
The snapper vs photographer thing is just folks not accepting reality. Owning a Canik does not make one a photographer and certainly not an artist. A lot of what I post is picture making. Ever hear me call myself an artist? When I do post a normal shot its a photograph out of a camera taken by a snapper.
Not all Pro photographs tell a story and do not need to. Is the guy shooting for National Geographic trying to tell a story or knock your socks off with the quality of his shot? The Vietnam shot you refer to is powerful for sure but the main emotion it brings forth is a desire to read the story that accompanied it. The picture on its own tells one very little. Your mixing up emotion with a desire to know what is going on.
And before I leave you I will let you into a little secret understood by cynics from way back when. We post pictures in forums cos we like our heads patted and our egos massaged. We are all human and that’s a very human need. Before anybody comes back with “I only post to get critique so I can improve” we are talking blunt honesty here. Give it a try, it does not kill ya and can feel quite refreshing.
- April 28, 2019 at 6:36 am #402669
Oh well, I gave it a shot mate.
“Your mixing up emotion with a desire to know what is going on.”
“The story is in the emotion we feel when we see an image.”
By definition this necessitates connection to something more than cold analysis of a bunch of pixels. Be cool my man (lest that heart of yours warms up 🙂 )
- April 28, 2019 at 7:47 am #402675
No sweat mate I was born cool!! Keep imagining lets your emotions wash over you and remember Billy loves ya just as you are.
- April 28, 2019 at 7:49 am #402676
Interesting NYT Article Graham. I’ve known that photograph a long time, but not the context. I don’t feel I’ve spent my life shortchanged to date. What was really interesting is the impact that photograph had on the Police Chief, perhaps because those who persecuted him later did not know the context he was operating in.
- April 30, 2019 at 6:16 pm #403146
- April 27, 2019 at 2:37 pm #402615
- April 27, 2019 at 6:47 pm #402631
You were there you took the picture so you know why the group is there and what their story is. Neither image tells any sort of story to the casual viewer without a large dose of imagination. Nice portrait by the way.
- April 28, 2019 at 12:30 am #402655
Thanks, she was very easy to photograph. 😉
I though I would try a different way or representing the poor, destitute, victims; if you can see little connecting the two pictures I achieved my aim.
- April 28, 2019 at 7:44 am #402673
In response to Erik and the opening post; interesting one, and interesting discussion. Isn’t there some sort of rule of thumb in film making about broad shots first before closer shots, toe establish the situation?
- April 30, 2019 at 6:24 pm #403147
Chris, in the old days, when most filmmakers still followed the “rules” that was the case.
First an establishing shot and then move in closer. Since MTV at the beginning of the eighties overhauled the whole concept of continuity, we moved on. We do not need that order anymore, there is more freedom but in most cases, at a certain point, the filmmaker will establish the situation. (Move out to reveal)
- April 28, 2019 at 8:20 am #402680
In a perfect world an image should stand on its own, but an image and a strong caption are most impactful.
Telling a story and creating emotion are linked but discrete. You cannot have emotion without some form of story, or without the capacity for empathy on the part of the viewer.
It is more than academic, isn’t it. Advertisers are creating an emotion, a need you didn’t know you had, to spend money.
I’m hoping to do a bit of charity fund raising later in the year for IDPs and refugees. Maybe it is just me, but the images I have of people looking sad and forlorn are (I think – and I could be wrong!) far less impactful than those which show normal kids doing normal things, but with a killer caption to establish context, while being discordant.
After all, refugees are supposed to look sad and forlorn; they are not supposed to look like us, or our kids.
I was looking for a Catherine Leroy photo of a child in Beirut, but could only find a copy of the cover of the book she did with Tony Clifton.
If you have any doubt that photographs can tell stories, try this and be convinced. Cheap on Amazon these days;
- April 30, 2019 at 6:37 pm #403149
“Maybe it is just me, but the images I have of people looking sad and forlorn are (I think – and I could be wrong!) far less impactful than those which show normal kids doing normal things, but with a killer caption to establish context, while being discordant”.
Chris, I 100 % agree. In a way it is sad, but we have seen so many of those images, they have lost their power on us. We see then, don’t even register and we go over to the next thing we were doing.
However, if you show normal kids doing normal things in not normal circumstances then you tell a story that most of us have forgotten and thus make an impact.
- April 30, 2019 at 8:47 pm #403164
Oftentimes the story stands alone in a single image, but a series is offered to form a language as the artist moves the viewers towards future works. The best works have layers. They are aesthetically pleasing yet interesting, and you could leave it at that or you could dig deeper for more meaning. I believe this image stands alone, but the second in the comments strengthens it.
- May 9, 2019 at 12:05 am #404712
A very interesting discussion on topics I’ve tried to figure out for myself.
Graham, thanks so much for the link to the Wash. Post article on that iconic photograph. Like Chris, I was unaware of the yawning gap between the photographer’s story and the story created by the public about the photograph when it was released. (And thanks for pointing out the FEDEX arrow, Graham, I didn’t know! 🙂 )
Both Graham and billyspad talk about how viewers create stories in response to viewing photographs:
billyspad: One’s imagination however can fill in any gaps for the snapper or the viewer.
Graham: The stories (note plural) are created in the mind of the viewer.
I would add that the viewer’s stories may have little or nothing to do with the photographer’s intent or knowledge of the context in which the image was taken.
I believe that we all have a need to create and share stories (sequences of events that are real and/or fictional) as part of being human.
Some stories last only in the moment of telling a relative or friend, some are passed on by families and communities via storytelling practices and thus last years or millennia. Stories inspire emotions such as joy, awe, fear, inspiration, fascination, boredom, yearning. Because of this human need, we make up stories all the time to give ourselves context to what we see, to help us navigate life, etc.
But I agree with Beth that while some images do tell or reference parts of stories, not all photographs tell stories. (And some in which I do see a story aren’t great photographs.) I have the emotion of fascination when I examine Mondrian’s compositions, but I am not compelled to build a story about them. I also believe he did not think of himself as having a story to tell with the abstract compositions red, blue, yellow lines.
In LS, my comments are often about particular elements of photographs: angles, hues, leading lines, compositional features. I do feel emotions of delight or fascination or jealousy when looking at folks’ images, but I often don’t see a story.
So Lynne, my answer to your question is that the Simon images do not tell a story for me. However, for me the 2 bird images (especially the 2nd) are compelling, and I really enjoyed looking at them for a bit.
I guess the best way for the photographer and viewer stories to align is with a sequence of photos, like the powerful images from the Middle East Chris often shares with us. But he also provides text to help us understand the context. As Erik mentions, film can provide context by being able to move through time.
I’ve spent lots of time worrying about whether my images tell stories, I guess in response to lots of discussion in recent years about “narrative photography” and the importance of “telling” stories with an image. This LS discussion has helped me think about this more deeply and not be so worried. Thanks everyone!
- May 9, 2019 at 12:58 am #404716
This has certainly been one of the most interesting threads so far for me Anne and a big thank you to Erik for starting it.
Of course you are right, not every picture has a story ‘per se’ but I think the word ‘story’ is often used in the wrong context. It’s only natural to associate the word ‘story’ with something we read or hear. In photography though I think it means something slightly different. We ‘see’ a story and Leanne posted a picture recently which illustrates this wonderfully.
Here is a perfect example of a ‘story’ in light. A black canvas with some delicate strokes of light which individually mean nothing but viewed as a whole we see a glass and a bottle…the story.
Methinks this debate will probably rage on for some time if not forever. Yet another thing to love about photography 🙂
- May 9, 2019 at 4:39 pm #404837
I think light is always a story… The story… Look some cool ass light hit that and for a moment God made it even more beautiful!
- May 9, 2019 at 8:41 pm #404853
You know sometimes I just want to look at a technically perfect picture, no drama, no trying to interpret it or look for a story. Years ago I took a lot of pics at the cancer center, for the cancer center, where my wife was a nursing assistant who took care of these folks while they were being pumped full of poison, I took photos of the good moments and the bad, she is in the banking business now, couldn’t do it any more, a lot of pain and death, too much. She has mostly forgotten it now and is sad for those people ,but the memories have faded. , for her. I remember every detail as if it were yesterday and probably will until I’m dead or suffer from dementia, it added a lot, to a lot, of other memories.
Yeah sometimes I really do just want to look at a technically perfect picture, no drama.
- May 9, 2019 at 10:49 pm #404897
Me too! I love that emotion.
- May 10, 2019 at 7:41 pm #405023
i’m right there with you robert. i get drama all the time from the stories that come through the ops room. they say a picture is worth a thousand words but sometimes you just want it to be pretty and shut the hell up. i think that’s why i like to shoot landscapes and not people, landscapes can’t start up a conversation with you.
- May 11, 2019 at 10:48 am #405155
I agree Robert. There is a news story going around the online sites right now that says that most Americans have not made a new friend in 5 years. I do very well on my own. I get lonely but I get over it. I still have friends all over the world that I hear from often. I like the distance.
- May 11, 2019 at 11:32 pm #405255
Well since joining LS, I’ve made lots of new friends 🙂
- May 11, 2019 at 9:14 am #405144
Great points, Robert and Beth. I tend to not shoot people either. Maybe that’s why.
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