Monday, October 15, 2012

Telling a Story

I generally don't like to draw attention to other bloggers with who's opinions I differ, but I thought this article deserved some attention because telling a story is the most salient point of my photographic work.  

Contrary to the opinion in the article, I believe it is possible to present a story in a single image. To hold that a viewer can't perceive a story unless presented with a series with a theme that binds the images together denigrates the viewer into an anonymous prole who's not able to intuit meaning. Each viewer brings to the experience his own story, just as I, the photographer, give an image meaning by how I compose and process it. But that holds true whether a single image or several images are presented. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa hangs in a room of her own in the Louvre and has been enchanting viewers for centuries without any context of other works of art close by. 

There are different kinds of stories. When I look at a photograph of Brazilian gold miners by Sebastiao Salgado I don't need to see the entire series to be struck by the inhumanity and degradation that the image is intended to portray. One photograph is enough. If I view more of the series, a more expanded consciousness evolves, to be sure. But to suggest that it's not possible to present a situation in one image that can communicate a story is less than complimentary to the photographer and the viewer.

The examples below were drawn from several photo walks I've taken in New York over the past several months. I certainly don't mean to suggest that my work is on a par with Da Vinci's or Salgado's.  Four of the five images involve a direct response to me. Without knowing anything about my style of shooting, a viewer might assume the people are looking at/into the camera as I'm taking the shot, and giving me an expression to communicate their response. Going a step further, were the viewer to know that all of the images were 'shot from the hip' - without having raised the camera to my eye - a different interpretation is possible, even likely: the subject's response is to me as a person observing them rather than taking a photograph. In either case, some are pleased with the experience, others not.  As a photographer I present images ripe with meaning, but the final story is in the eye of the beholder.

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