A narrative picture essay

Part five of The Art of Photography deals with narrative. The argument could be made for substance of the image over quality of the image. Of course obtaining both is the ultimate goal. In the case of this first exercise, I needed to tell a short story of an event or activity. Using between 5-15 images plus a small description, I needed to track the activity from start to finish and give a cohesive account of what happened. This was to be a short term activity and one that could be covered relatively easily, but still with some definitive meaning to it. Once I had selected the images for the series, I needed to decide what order and size the images should be. The order of the images need not be dictated by the order they were taken. For instance, the first image of my series was in fact one of the last that I took. I realised towards the end of the shoot that I hadn’t got a long shot that set the story up. To tell the story I needed to vary the image types whilst keeping a continuity to the style. Some close, some further away, some detail, some descriptive.

In order to keep the style and order that I wanted, I saved the series as a PDF and added a small descriptive caption underneath on each page. It can be viewed here.

The first image is an obvious scene setting photograph. It tells you where and what I am about to photograph. As I said, this was actually one of the last photos I took. I knew it would be needed in the series as an opener though. The next page contains three separate images, but pertaining to the mid-part of the activity, with the pot making clearly in process. I have a large mid-shot of my son combined with some detail and explanatory images in a smaller format. The penultimate page shows the process coming towards conclusion, with the kiln and ‘raw’ pots being the full stop to the process part. The final page shows the finished product. The absence of an apron, a change of clothes, clean hands and different lighting tells the viewer that this is sometime later, after the pots have been fired.

The series hangs together in that all the images are clearly related to the activity. The middle six images also have similar colouring, again adding to the cohesive nature of the series. In true tradition of story telling there is also a beginning, a middle and an end. I have added movement in some of the photos to shows the speed of the pottery wheel and fly-wheel which pulls the eye in to the image.

I found the arrangement and size of the images the difficult part to reconcile. The sizing is somewhat arbitrary, although the vertical shots lend themselves to having two horizontal shots to compliment them. I also didn’t feel that the detail shots needed to be too large as there were more of them to show. They are interest shots but don’t inherently tell as much of the story as the larger ones. This series would fall under the ‘mainly context’ category using Michael Freeman’s ‘list of image templates’ (The Photographer’s Mind, 2010, p.152-153).

For my final assignment I need to decide what style I am looking to achieve within this sort of framework, whether it is one category or a mixture of more.

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