"Telling" a story

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by aral, Apr 28, 2009.

  1. Why do photographers, especially experts, always talk about telling a story with the image? Isn't this a faulty use of language?
    An image can't tell a story. It can show a situation, perhaps even an intriguing situation. The image may evoke that the viewer tells himself (or herself) a story, but it's the viewers story, not the story image tells.
    I think this misuse of language is most unfortunate. Like when I was an absolute beginner I have always been confused with the concept that I should tell a story with the image. I simply can not. I can perhaps present unusual, even emotional situations, surprising views of landscape, etc. but I can't tell a story with a photo.
    I expect that due to their insight experts would explain concepts in as precise way as possible. It may not be the precision of mathemathical teorem, but using tricky language is certainly not helping the clarity.
     
  2. It's a perfectly reasonable term, and a reasonable goal for certain kinds of photography. You're right that the image can present a "situation." But some situations can only come to pass because of a certain string of events, or in the face of of looming (or promising) events. It doesn't matter if the viewer is getting exactly the narrative, down to the invisible pre- or post-shot details. A photograph that doesn't even have the prospects of supporting a narrative will appear lifeless indeed, next to one that does.

    Of course some of the fun for some photographers is in arming the viewer with the possibilities of a number of stories to explain or expand upon what's seen in the image. For others, especially journalists and social event photographers, cleverly showing hints of the past and the future in the composition and timing of a shot is a sign of real mastery.
     
  3. as a shooter, the moment you start to think about creating a story, you enter a realm that seperates you from the point and click artistes. a good picture need not tell a story but the most memorable ones tend to. i would say that photograpy with documentary value is perhaps at its best within the street shooting mode. studio created pictures feel a little ariticial to me.
     
  4. Ales: "I can perhaps present unusual, even emotional situations, surprising views of landscape, etc. but I can't tell a story with a photo."
    It might be that photographs that tell stories aren't presenting something so much as creating something. Creation often involves the photographer blending something of herself with that bit of the world she is photographing. One of the joys of photographs is that they may open up connections to the world. In this statement, "world" is not the key. "Connections" is. A connection is more than a presentation. It is here that stories begin.
    Matt has rightly pointed to narrative. Narrative implies time. Photographs are often mistaken for static because they are reduced by some to "capturing an instant or moment." To be sure, they can do that and do it well. But they can also invoke time.
    The viewer may supply a story but the photographer can instigate that and can, in fact, tell a story. How is this done? With photographic tools. Visual suggestions of time. Echoing. Blur suggesting motion in time. The energy of light that moves the viewer's eye around a frame. Symbolism. All of these are tools by which the photographer enables the viewer to make connections to themes and narratives. A good photographer knows the power of associations, knows how to evoke mystery. It is not all done by the viewer, by any means. It is the good photographer who starts and enables that process, through awareness and with intention.
    A photographer -- you, for instance -- does not have to tell a story. If you prefer to present objects or situations in the world, why assume others are misusing language when they describe other ways photographs can be used or seen, for instance, to tell stories? I enjoy being open to the various ways in which people create and consider photographs.
    This is not about tricky language. It's about vision and understanding.
     
  5. doesn't this tell a story then?
     
  6. Take off the blinders, of course a picture can tell a story. Hence they often quoted" A picture is worth a 1000 words" Tell me Eddie Adams pulitzer winning execution photo in Vietnam didn't tell a story. Its one of 2 photos that changed American opinion about the war. One of the interesting facts about that still photograph is that the execution was also filmed; the film had a far less powerful effect than the still. Really, I could give you 500 examples, but actually believe this has to be a troll or someone who has not studied photography. My first assignment at RIT was to shoot a narrative still life (translated: a still life that tells a story) Get serious.
     
  7. I see Ton posted the other shot by Nick Ute that greatly influenced American opinion about the Vietnam war.
     
  8. Ditto Fred, well expressed your points, and "the power of associations" is very well present in many photo narratives.
     
  9. No matter what you try to put into a scene, it will almost always kick off the cinema in some spectator's head. That's telling the story.
     
  10. I agree with all of you (especially with Fred) to some point, but this is not what I had in mind.
    For example, shot postad by Ton: does it tell a story? By my opinion, no way it can do that. It just presents a situation but it presents it in extremely powerful way. I understand its power as forcing us, the audience, to tell ourself stories, even more, probably everybody tells more or less the same story. It has a powerful message, but is this same as telling a story?
    Next, refering to John, how could a still photo of the same event be more powerful than film? I don't think that with telling a story since both, photo and film, would tell the same story, if they could. I think that the edge photo may have over film is that the photo is revealing less (but just right) and leaving more to viewers imagination. It makes us, the audience, to give it more thought and time than a film does.
    Don't get me wrong, I do appreciate powerful photos and I do admire the creative mind and skill that creates them. But I don't like the use of sort of symbolic language that may be confusing.
     
  11. Ales: so, this is a semantic problem for you, not a photographic one. Think of it this way... can one use a haiku to tell or invoke a story, or must one use an entire novel? It's possible that you're confusing narrative power with documentary detail.
     
  12. jtk

    jtk

    Ales, Perhaps your question can be understood another way:
    Your concern about purported "experts" suggests that, even though you know your own photography is worthwhile, you worry about authority figures. Maybe you're being unnecessarily defensive.
    False ideas commonly get expressed as "beliefs"- "belief" is used to defend error.
    For example,some believe the fairy tale about two famous photos changing America's attitude toward the rape of Vietnam: beloved factual ignorance.
    The Eddie Adams and Nick Ut photos have been publicized so much in recent years that they have become icons, wrapped in "belief." But neither photo had anything whatsoever to do with ending the "war."
    Eddie Adams' photo dated 1968...after which the war's fever pitch increased.

    Nick Ut's photo dated 1972, AFTER we'd started to withdraw...long after the "silent majority" of Americans demanded an end to the war (despite Nixon/Kissinger et al).
    Matt Lauer's comment on "semantics" is spot on. Exploration of inferred stories can help us share our individual responses to images but those stories aren't the essence of a photo unless a photographer had that intention....that's what I "believe" :)
     
  13. John--
    You seem to be conflating changing attitudes and opinions about the war on the one hand with ending the war or actually effecting political change on the other. That the war's fever pitch increased after 1968 has nothing to do with a photo's affecting people and their opinions in that same year. Perhaps the stories of photos and the attitudes of a populace don't work as immediately as bombs, bullets, and the men who control them.
     
  14. Ales--
    When you say it presents a situation in an extremely powerful way, what do you mean? I assume that powerful situation is not conveyed by magic, right? What gives it power? Does it give you information? Make you think? Provide associations? Does it give you the sense of what came before the moment of capture and what may be about to happen? You ask for precision, so I'll ask you to be precise. What part of story is NOT in the photo Ton referenced?
     
  15. Matt Lauer's comment

    I don't know, John. I think most of Matt Lauer's comments come off a teleprompter!

    But I'm glad he has that extra vowel, or even more Google-using people would be annoyed by me, even if only in telegenic effigy. Of course, I suppose it's possible that some of my mutterings get confused for his, once in a million web searches... which would be highly amusing.
     
  16. to echo fred's post above:
    "One of the joys of photographs is that they may open up connections to the world. In this statement, "world" is not the key. "Connections" is. A connection is more than a presentation. It is here that stories begin."
    a twist on sg's; "as a shooter, the moment you start to think about creating a story, you enter a realm that seperates you from the point and click artistes."
    ime, here and elsewhere on the www, the "telling a story" has become a bit of a cliche, much used by those who seem to despise, and perhaps fear their own connection to, so-called snapshots and p&s clicking. such cliches have a tendency to reduce the meaning of the words..
     
  17. Ales,
    As a Photographer you should know that a picture is worth a thousand words--as an Artist you should have the imagination to convey these words and marry it to the image. Enough said.
     
  18. I'll take a stab at that, Fred. That image - by itself - doesn't tell you that napalm was involved, or who deployed it, and whether it was done to stop approaching insurgents and save a village, or to punish a village for being such. So, the image doesn't tell that story, instead it tells the "innocent children are directly caught up in the war" story.
     
  19. Great post, Matt.
    I wasn't suggesting, nor do I think others are, that photos tell the same stories as words or articles. But a story needn't be specific to be told. Just as the details involved in a story like your journalistic one of napalm are not replicated in the photo, the story told by a photo often can't be replicated with words and specific details.
    Matt, I chose my words to Ales carefully. I asked "What part of story is NOT in the photo?" You answered what part of the story is NOT in the photo. My question was more universal and generic. And clearly, you seem to recognize that the photo tells a story, though, as you observe, not that story.
     
  20. The image may evoke that the viewer tells himself (or herself) a story, but it's the viewers story, not the story image tells.​
    Any story could be considered the story the receiver told himself rather than the story told. The medium used to tell the story-- words, photos, paintings, gestures, cartoons-- doesn't change that.
     
  21. Damon--
    Thanks for making that important point. For some reason, when it comes to photographs, people often dwell on the role of the viewer and the viewer's interpretation/reaction. It's important to consider that the photographer can have intentions, consciousness, purpose, design, and be a very active participant. That doesn't preclude the fact that a viewer will add his own layers of meaning and emotion. But the viewer is adding and not simply doing whatever he pleases, unless he wants to completely discount the photographer, which would be to discount a lot.
    Confusion comes in because we are fond of saying that once a photographer puts her photo up for public consumption, it takes on a life of it's own. Children do that as well as they grow, take on lives of their own. But that doesn't mean parents suddenly become immaterial or irrelevant to who that child will become.
     
  22. jtk

    jtk

    I recall LIFE reporting a photo like this was the most important in terms of reader response:
    http://photosthatchangedtheworld.com/dragging-vietcong-soldier/
    Fred, you believe the famous Ut and Adams shots had some sort of influence on outcome...
    ....and you've accepted that there's no chronological linkage between the publishing of the images (68' and 72') and the war's progress .
    Television, the press, and popular music were full of strong images of Vietnam.
    Soldiers sent uncensored photos home, demonstrated, made presentations in churches. Press photographers were not "embedded," so they shared uncensored death and horror.
    IMO Adams and Ut are fatasized to have been influential because the two images are strong and we buy what we're sold about history. But there were thousands of strong images. Every war has images as strong as Ut's and Adams'.
    Please explain what the two images had to do with our withdrawl from Vietnam, given that one was made in 68' while we were ramping up and the other in 72' while we were withdrawing.
     
  23. Duane Michals ( enigmatic photographic storyteller ) in his book ' Questions Without Answers ' :
    "In my sixty-eighth year I have become the lucid dreamer, who has awakened in his sleep of life and knows that he is dreaming. I am a phantom in a phantom landscape. I assume nothing and find the familiar to be a curiosity. The inherited bedrock of definitions which described reality for me is now porous and insubstantial. Has it been sand all along and had I failed to notice? As my consciousness spirals to its pre-destined disappearance, age has forced me to pay attention. Now I begin to see the silhouette of the mystery. I think about thinking and am beyond the comfort of conformity. I must ask questions that I never thought to ask before. The most profound questions seem to be transparent in their ordinariness and deceptive in their significance. A child would understand. I know that this modest enquiry must fail. But what else am I to do?"


    I think the above can be ascribed to the concept of ' story's ', and how at times we can be kept in the dark to what our own story's are, we see no clear beginning, no distinct middle, and no definitive end, for we are the story. We can't go outside the story, and as such, must always interpret story's told by others from inside our own. We percieve by memory, respond by memory. Clarity, the search for it, is futile. Accepting it's futility makes the story clearer.
     
  24. The effects of the photo are still being debated. Even the National Review, intent on putting a dent in the romanticized interpretation, recognizes the effect it had.
    http://article.nationalreview.com/?q=M2QxNWY0N2ZkY2IxMWJhZGQ4MTU3ZjhlZjg3NTk0NzE=
    The National Review article is significant to this thread because it makes clear how viewer interpretation seems to have run amock, straying from the meaning of the photograph and the story it originally captured. Rather than taking the photo as an indictment of General Loan or the war -- the way the anti-war movement and many journalists saw it -- Adams was documenting what General Loan, a man he respected for the many good deeds he had already performed during the war, was brought to upon witnessing the Vietcong man slaughtering several American troops, including wives and children. Though Adams's photo was interpreted as an indictment of Loan, Adams, when he took the photo, had great sympathy and felt much empathy for Loan.
    Adams, of course, recognized and always regretted the effect his photo had on Loan's life. From the Review article: "Adams wrote in Time magazine, 'The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them, but photographs do lie, even without manipulation.' "
    Though it may have been misinterpreted, the National Review article strongly suggests the influence on the public the photo had. The Review article, conservative and pro-war minded as it is, maintains that the interpretation was wrong but recognizes (what it considers to be the unfortunate) the anti-war effects the photo had. Other articles question that influence as you have, John. The matter seems usettled. The influence of the photo is not a fairy tale. It's effect on the American mind set, politicians, and the outcome of the war is still being debated.
    A couple of other articles about the debate:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/20/arts/20adam.html
    http://www.allbusiness.com/services/business-services-miscellaneous-business/4705682-1.html
    The important point for this thread is this:
    Ales has said, "The image may evoke that the viewer tells himself (or herself) a story, but it's the viewers story, not the story image tells." This limits itself to the stories (often false and only self-gratifying) that a viewer tells him or herself when viewing a photo. Not to recognize that the photographer is telling a story (one which the viewer might miss, much to the viewer's detriment) is potentially to miss a whole lot of truth.
     
  25. "Ales has said, "The image may evoke that the viewer tells himself (or herself) a story, but it's the viewers story, not the story image tells." This limits itself to the stories (often false and only self-gratifying) that a viewer tells him or herself when viewing a photo. Not to recognize that the photographer is telling a story (one which the viewer might miss, much to the viewer's detriment) is potentially to miss a whole lot of truth."
    Does that mean there is no story except our own story, whether we are the artist or the observer? Are we all missing a "whole lot of truth"?
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, thanks for recognizing my point.
    National Review has never been as important as better journalism, especially Time and Life, during the Vietnam War.
    Adams' repor of the impact of his photo on General Loan is touching, but is irrelevant, since General Loan was himself a nobody ... just a puppet government's soldier.
    Adams' and Ut made memorable photos, among thousands of equally important photos.
    None of those photos, not even the accumulated thousands, were nearly as significant as the stories told by returning troops, the history taught at teach-ins (not today's revisionist history), or the television news, each night, glowing in homes of every American family.
    Ut's and Adams' photos, just like the photos of myriad fine photojournalists, illustrates a story but does not tell it. I suspect Ut and Adams would agree, since both have invested so much energy in explaining the images.
    Robert Capa's " Falling Soldier"....perhaps still more famous than Adam's or Ut's shots...what story does that one tell? None. Just like the napalmed girl and the executed Vietcong. Those images excite the imagination, provoke emotions, but their stories exist elsewhere, in words.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/robert-capa/in-love-and-war/47/
     
  27. You can't simply say the the 2 photos discussed here by Adams and Ute are simply like a myriad of other photographs. They both won the Pulititzer Prize a clear indication that they were probably the best photojournalistic shot of thier respective years, 1968, and 1972. John Kelly, your opinion just doesn't come close to carrying that kind of weight.
     
  28. I would have thought that by now someone would have made the observation that ascribing an action like "telling a story" to an inanimate object is an example of ideomatic English. You can't be too literal about it because people tell stories to each other and objects do not. But sometimes objects can be made to trigger memories and experiences people have had in their lives so that the feeling one gets when they are present is loosely similar to that of hearing a story.
    I liked Starvey's comments on how the photographer can bring an awareness that this kind of thing can happen into his work. The result should be recognizable in familiar ways such as clear, crisp subjects and easy to understand action. He will have to tell us for himself what he does to make sure his work passes the 'story-worthy' test. I, for one, would be very interested in reading his thoughts on this.
    I remember seeing the Viet-Nam war photo before. So much time has gone by now I can't tell you the precise circumstances it shows. Was it Mei-Lei? Tet? Just another village being blown up? The point isn't that I should remember, or even that after so long it matters much. The circumstances that make the photo possible, its context if you will, survives only so long as someone remembers it. The Viet-Nam war was real enough; the suffering and loss of life were real enough; but the passage of time turns a photo like this from making a specific observation into one expressing a general sentiment. I've heard that the children shown fleeing the attack are still alive and living in the U.S. So where in this change of time is its story? Who can say that they understand it the best?
    As for storytelling: is it posible to get beyond an understanding that some photos are a kind of setup designed for the effect they might have on the viewer? I want to include the possibility that one can find and capture images in the world around her/him that do the same thing. If I had the answer to this question I would drive it home now, but the best I can do is suggest that some photos do a much better job than others of acting like virtual shutter release cables tripping off cascades of ideas and impresions in my mind as I see them.
     
  29. Ugh,
    quite a mess. My intention was more semantic or perhaps didactic than purely photographic. But I am glad I have posted the question. With reading replies I gained a bit of insight and came to better understanding of even some other concepts as well.
    You see, in my area of expertise (physics), using imprecise and therefore misleading, even wrong terms, is - or should be- avoided at all costs. I am sort of used to that approach. The command goes "Use simple language, don't complicate if not necessary. Especially avoid the use of analogies- or properly warn audience, because analogies are useless in real world." So if I hear or read telling, I think wording. Text may do it, photo (or painting or sculpture) can't. I think that term Telling a story with a photo is such an analogy.
    However what was confusing me, but perhaps was not properly expressed (and therefore I did not properly understood it), was pointed out by Fred: "... the story told by a photo often can't be replicated with words and specific details." I only wish that Fred omitted the term "told" from the explanation. It seems much more reasonable to me: "... the story by a photo often can't be replicated with words and specific details." I could agree that photo is a story, not a story told by photographer, but story evoked by photographer.
    This brings me to Fred's questions:"When you say it presents a situation in an extremely powerful way, what do you mean?" I mean that a powerful photo enforces all viewers to tell themself the same story. It may be difficult or even impossibe (at least for me) to decompose the photo to single elements and point out what exactly do they mean for the whole. But somehow they combine in a single idea.
    And finally, if you ask me to be precise "What part of story is NOT in the photo Ton referenced?" I will give you an imprecise answer, sorry, this is the best I can do: "None of it explicitely, but all of it if you look at a photo as a whole. And this is what makes it a really great work."
     
  30. "Does that mean there is no story except our own story, whether we are the artist or the observer? Are we all missing a "whole lot of truth"?"
    Larry--
    No. I was disagreeing with Ales's statement that only the viewer supplies the story. I think the photographer tells (I'm not hesitant to use that word, Ales) a story and the viewer may add his own plot lines to it. I'm suggesting we recognize all contributions to the story, both by the photographer and the viewer. If, like Ales, we assume that only the viewer can tell the story, we risk, as in the case of the Adams photo, really distorting the truth of what the photo is telling us.
    Ales--
    Thanks for your reasonable responses. We disagree but it's a pleasure and stimulating to discuss these things with you. I want to suggest that just as imprecise language can hamper the study of physics, adherence to absolutely strict and literal meaning (such as the assertion that an inanimate object cannot tell) can hamper an understanding of photography.
    By the way, here are some definitions of "tell" from the 2009 Random House Unabridged Dictionary:
    to give an account or narrative of
    to reveal or divulge
    to discern or recognize so as to be able to identify or describe: Can you tell who that is over there?
    While many of the definitions of "tell" include words, many do not.
    Ales, I'm disappointed in your non-answer to the question "What part of story is NOT in the photo Ton referenced?"
    It should be a fairly straight-forward exercise if the photo is not telling a story.
    Let's take Aristotle's six elements of drama: plot, theme, character, language, rhythm, spectacle. It seems to me the photo in question has all these elements. Probably the one you would most argue with is language. I consider language to be, at least in part, a meaningful series of symbols. Good photos will often include meaningful symbols or representations. As for the rest, the photo surely has a plot, theme, characters, rhythm, and spectacle.
     
  31. To Albert Richardson: " ascribing an action like "telling a story" to an inanimate object is an example of idiomatic (sp correct) English" According to this faulty logic, a book, an inanimate object, with language typed on white pages coherently written, or for example the screen you are currently reading, is incapable of telling a story or communicating. Both photographs and books and computer screens can tell stories. Get off your high horse and get real.
     
  32. John, so what does it mean when, for an illiterate person, a book is just a door stop or a source of toilet paper? For an inanimate object to tell a story is an idiomatic expression.
    A book doesn't tell a story, the reader reads it into the symbols on the page. The same is true of Aristotle's six elements. They need to be read by a literate observer. Not just high horses .... oops, there's another symbol. How did I know what it meant? How much does that process of learning to read the symbols play in understanding any stories told by word, or image, or maybe dance? Maybe that's why I don't like dance all that much. I'm dance illiterate.
    I think literacy is vital. Artists may think they are telling stories as Fred suggests, but D. H. Lawrence admitted we could never trust the artist. This forum is a playground for created stories from art, history, and philosophy sources whose "artists" had intentions, but whose works are being re-invented as we add our plot lines (for Fred) and, at least sometimes, make up whole new stories.
     
  33. Ales, one further thought about your statement:
    "I could agree that photo is a story, not a story told by photographer, but story evoked by photographer."
    The problem with this is that, for example in the case of the Adams photo, the story evoked by the photograph, for the most part, was false and misleading. The story told by the photographer was quite different. That is particularly significant in Admas's case because his story was missed, or twisted for political reasons, by many people. Photographers are not limited to simply submitting images for a viewer's consideration. Photographers are often active and intentional. Mimes can tell stories with their body movements . . . no text, no words. Sing language interpreters can tell stories with gestures . . . no text, no words. People can tell stories by the way they dress and the expressions on their faces. Children can tell stories with their eyes. Sculptors can tell stories with marble. Photographers can tell stories with pictures.
     
  34. Larry--
    Are we taling about whether a photographer tells a story or a photograph does? If that's the question at hand, I'm happy to concede that photographs don't tell stories and photographers do, using the photograph as their medium for storytelling. Just as I would be happy to concede that books don't tell stories, authors do, using books as their medium.
    But I don't think that's what we're discussing. And we're not discussing whether a tree falling in a forest, with no one there to hear it, makes a noise. Which is what your take on Aristotle's six elements boils down to. You say, "they need to be read by a literate observer." The story is not told or written unless it is subsequently read? Really! Can't you imagine someone writing a story and then tearing it up, before anyone has had a chance to read it? Because no one reads it, it's not a story?
    On the other hand, if this discussion boils down to the usage of the word "tell," then it's not a very deep discussion and has little to do with photographs. John Kelly prefers the word "illustrate." Fine.
    The point is there are stories in photographs. The stories are understood and interpreted by viewers. The stories are communicated, illustrated, conveyed, created, instigated, suggested, put there, TOLD, by photographers.
     
  35. I would also disagree that the story meant to be told by the photographer or writer is always the story received by the viewer or reader. The object, either book or photo, tells different stories to different people.
     
  36. I believe that the use of the term idiomatic expression or "ideomatic english" is improperly used in this discussion. Perhaps, one of the 2 posters using this term would bless us with a quoted definition of the term from an appropriate dictionary, preferably Oxford. I don't believe the definiton of that term in any way defeats the argument that photographs tell stories or that a photograph is worth a 1000 words.
     
  37. Well, an idiom is an expression peculiar to a language that cannot be understood by merely adding up the ordinary meanings of the words individually. No photograph or book "tells a story" unless you use the expression idiomatically. I'm not worried about it; I just think no one needs to "get real" because he pointed it out.
    If a book or photo tells different stories to different people (and I agree that it does) then from where does that story originate? Is there a "real" story being told, and who gets to decide what it is?
     
  38. "If a book or photo tells different stories to different people (and I agree that it does) then from where does that story originate?"
    It originates with the writer of the book or the maker of the photo. It expands or changes from there.
     
  39. The brain likes to make a story from all the partial information it derives from the senses. So for example when astronomers first looked at the planet Mars with inadequate telescopes they saw 'canals' whiich soon were mapped in extraodinary detail and a whole story about Martian civilisation built up from the fuzzy imperfect images seen by these pioneers.
    Similarly when people see a photo they tend to create a story to surround it. The photo does not supply the narrative - the viewer does that. However some photos are more susceprtible to being interpreted than others so you get photos which give rise to more open or closed narratives.
    Whether this story telling is a good thing or not really depends on the purpose of the shot. For photo-journailsm it may be essential while for illustrative works such as archtectural or nature shots you often do not want to create any ambiguity.
     
  40. Colin--
    I agree with you that the story-telling component will depend on the purpose of the shot. Thanks for making that point.
    But:
    "The photo does not supply the narrative - the viewer does that."
    Why aren't more photographers in this forum talking about the role, potential, and power of the photographer? Why are so many taking and empathizing with the role of viewer in their responses more than with the role of photograph maker? Colin, what are we all doing, just mindlessly snapping off shots in the hopes that a viewer will do all the creative work? Do we all just concentrate on bokeh, focus, exposure, what lens we use so that we can perfect our shooting technique with nothing more behind what we're doing?
    Many photographers spend time thinking about what they want to say with a photograph and what visual tools or language, both while shooting and when post processing, they will use to say it. I doubt many viewers will get all the specifics about what the photographer may be thinking and the photographer is often less than specific in what he wants to say. A story may be told even if there is not verbatim communication between photographer and viewer. One can tell a story in the hopes of moving a viewer without needing the story to be understood precisely.
    The fact that stories will be interpreted differently by viewers does not mean a story has not been told. No one would deny that Shakespeare was a story teller, yet high school classes all over the world learn about the different interpretations of his works. As a matter of fact, because his works are plays, in order to be performed as plays, they MUST be interpreted by actors, a director, and viewers. I hope that doesn't mean Shakespeare didn't tell stories.
     
  41. jtk

    jtk

    John Eder, personal attack (re the weight of my "opinion") isn't helpful.
    The "America's Most Popular" credo is beloved by millions, but it doesn't ring true...we can salute the work of Ut and Adams without worshiping them.
    Ut and Adams deserved and won Pulitzer prizes, and that is irrelevant to the question of their impact on the outcome of the war.
    ... if you've seen Pulitzer exhibitions you know they the images are selected for immediate emotional impact, as felt by a bunch of hardened newspaper editors: shock value.
    We remember those two today for their publicity. Woody Allen has recycled one of them for decades in "Manhattan" (the most effective use of that image IMO)... the grown-up napalmed girl tours the US today, which revives her naked image in every city's newspaper with every visit. The "power" of that burnt child's image has of course prevented white phosphorus damage (vs napalm) to children in Iraq.. right...?
    IMO the most effective images of the era were not the "iconic images" we remember today...they were film images, televised...so we've been politically sheltered from such images in places like Iraq.
    We cling to photo icons because we're ignorant of history...we want a bit of the past but we are rarely willing to dig into it...
     
  42. "The fact that stories will be interpreted differently by viewers does not mean a story has not been told".
    The fact that a story has been told does not mean the same story will be heard. Artists have always been offended by how their "stories" get interpreted. They have an idea about what they were doing, but what actually happens turns out to be something else for others. That ticks them off, because they believed they were doing something important and making themselves very clear about it, but the feedback suggests it didn't work that well, at least in terms of what they thought they were trying to do.
    I read some of that into Fred's frustration as an artist, "Why aren't more photographers in this forum talking about the role, potential, and power of the photographer?" Maybe the "story" Fred is telling in this thread is not about what he thinks it is. Suggesting that the photographer's role and power is far less within his control than he wants to believe, can be quite frustrating to an artist, and that frustration is surfacing.
    I would ask why that is an issue? Why would an artist be upset by the idea that his stories are not within his control? Why is the only alternative, "just mindlessly snapping off shots in the hopes that a viewer will do all the creative work"? Is that polarization of the issue the only choice? Why can't it be that artists create "stories" that inspire observers to "add their own plot lines"? Maybe that is the quality that makes something art.
    Perhaps art is just that - "stories" that were created by someone that have the power to invoke creativity in others. There is nothing horrifying to me about the fact that what I think I may be saying is not that clearly understood by others, and that what I have said simply inspires the creativity in others. It can still be art. It can still be "important".
    I'm not so important that my story needs to be understood by everyone. It is more important that everyone understand their own.
     
  43. Larry--
    "The fact that a story has been told does not mean the same story will be heard."
    I agree with this and have agreed with it throughout the thread. I am not offended by how my stories get interpreted. I love reading the various interpretations. If you look through the pages of my portfolio, you'll see that my photos get interpreted a lot and sometimes with great imagination by various viewers and we often engage in long dialogues about it. I love that aspect of my photographs and making them public. I am not married to my stories. But I do tell them. I tell stories to be expressive, not to make specific points. I want people to interpret them how they will and I want them to be moved. My recognizing and being thrilled by their personal interpretations doesn't make me deny that I, as photographer, told A story. I never said I told THE ONLY story and I never said I told the story the way I expected or insisted it be interpreted.
    Where did you get the idea that artists are frustrated by the recognition that their work is open to all kinds of interpretations? That's a claim I'd want to be shown some evidence of.
    I often try NOT to be clear. You've projected a lot about artists and you've projected it onto me.
    I'm not at all upset by the fact that my stories are not under my control. I'm upset by the fact that we're not communicating well in this particular forum, which is about discussion and making points. I'm not frustrated as an artist, as you claim. I'm frustrated as a philosopher . . . with you . . . because you are making things up as you go along rather than listening to what I say.
    What I said is that the photographer has power and a role. I didn't say his finished work will be totally or even greatly under his CONTROL. Because a photographer has the power to tell a story does not mean he has control over how that story will be interpreted. Never said that, never would.
    "Why can't it be that artists create "stories" that inspire observers to "add their own plot lines"?"
    That's exactly what I have been saying. Go back and read my words objectively and carefully and I hope you will see that.
    The main point I've been advocating throughout the thread is to refute the original claim by Ales that photographs/photographers don't tell stories. You and I seem to agree that artists tell (or at least "create" if the word "tell" is problematic) stories. That's a significant area of agreement.
     
  44. Larry--
    To make it as clear as possible. Here's what I said just above: "I think the photographer tells (I'm not hesitant to use that word, Ales) a story and the viewer may add his own plot lines to it."
    And then you say to me: "Why can't it be that artists create 'stories' that inspire observers to 'add their own plot lines'?"
    We have both said exactly the same thing yet you pose it as if we have a disagreement. That's frustrating indeed.
     
  45. Suggesting that the photographer's role and power is far less within his control than he wants to believe, can be quite frustrating to an artist...

    Which is why communicating something (narrative, information, rhetoric) in an image is a goal, though one that is - by most people, most of the time, certainly including me - only clumsily touched, and rarely achieved. To observe, critically, that an image doesn't seem to be communicating (what the artist intends, or anything for that matter) might be valid, or it might be that the artist and the critic don't share the same visual language, culture, or experience.

    Symbols and visual cues can be drenched in meaning for some and are utterly empty to others as they view a photograph (or see a dance, or read Shakespeare). Just look at the visual language of gang clothing - where the tilt of a hat brim or placement of a bandana speaks contentious volumes about heritage, loyalty, threat, comfort, and the prospects of or safety from violence. A photograph of two different LA gang members might tell the wrong story (or none at all) to some viewers while being worth ten thousand words to either of their own groups. The viewer's ignorance of the nuances seen and caught by the photographer doesn't make the photographer less visually articulate.

    Why would an artist be upset by the idea that his stories are not within his control?


    Because it may be that photographer's purpose - or even his job - to unambiguosly communicate something fairly specific to the viewer, or to as many viewers as possible. "This kitchen remodeling job was beautifully done." "This groom is happy, but a bit pensive as he watches his bride come down the aisle." "These terrified children are fleeing a scene of destruction, while weary soldiers walk on, as they do every day." "The guy in this photograph looks fabulous in that tie, and the people around him think so, including that woman on the left, who clearly is re-assessing him as a potential mate - and so you should also buy that tie."

    How and when the viewer encounters such images - the context in which they're seen - will have much to do with when and whether they communicate anything close to what was intended. Just as someone screaming some badly muddled Shakespeare on a street corner may not be achieving the bard's intent, even if "slings and arrows" get in there, somewhere.

    Speaking of clumsy, I'll indulge myself (nobody else needs to play along!) by inserting a photograph-ish addition to this conversation. I happened to have been called upon by my favorite jewelry artist to whip up some imagery to accompany a Mother's Day promo piece she needed. Below is a two-panel piece of the layout, with overlayed text and some other elements removed for the purposes of this thread (though you can tell where they'd go, obviously - that was part of the composition). So it was a quick job, with little opportunity to really prepare - and all it's supposed to do is tell a little story. Specifcally, it's supposed to remind the viewer that it would be nice to present Mom with breakfast in bed, and gee, wouldn't some handmade jewelry go nice with that.

    The notion is that by allowing the viewer to see a bit of the story of that same thing unfolding for someone else, they might be inspired to take a similar action. We don't need to get into Advertising 101, here, and please let's not give me a hard time about the lighting (man, simulating a sunny morning on a rainy day is hard!).

    But perhaps this sort of narrative moment - however roughly sketched by yours truly - can provide for some more specific discussion about how an incomplete story doesn't make narrative any less important, even when the photographer can't worry about controlling everything else that will pop into the viewer's head.
    00TDXj-129979584.jpg
     
  46. It's obvious my stories aren't working well.
    "Why aren't more photographers in this forum talking about the role, potential, and power of the photographer? Why are so many taking and empathizing with the role of viewer in their responses more than with the role of photograph maker? Colin, what are we all doing, just mindlessly snapping off shots in the hopes that a viewer will do all the creative work? Do we all just concentrate on bokeh, focus, exposure, what lens we use so that we can perfect our shooting technique with nothing more behind what we're doing?"
    Then what, exactly, is the concern in that paragraph. I see it as suggesting that either the important person is the artist, or one "empathizes with the role of the viewer" and we all become just robots randomly snapping pictures. At least that is this viewer's response.
    That dicotomy does not exist. I believe the artist and the audience are, in fact, equal partners in all forms of art. Paragraphs like that make me think you do not.
     
  47. I believe the artist and the audience are, in fact, equal partners in all forms of art.

    Except that without the artist, there's be nothing for the audience to digest. Without the artist creating something a wee bit different than the last guy, that audience might as well spend all of its time reacting to just one official piece of art. The artist creates, and the audience either does or doesn't react to it. But their reaction or lack of one doesn't change the fact of the artist act of creation. The artist might work with an audience in mind, but that relationship doesn't exist without the artist's initiative efforts. Ask Van Gogh about it - he sure didn't need an audience to create brilliant, evocative work. Though... a rewarding audience might have bought him a longer, happier life. You never know.
     
  48. "Then what, exactly, is the concern in that paragraph."
    Larry, the concern is that many people in this thread have been saying that ONLY the viewer participates in the story and that the photographer doesn't tell one. I am suggesting that they are missing a significant part of the equation. The part where the photographer tells a story. Matt is saying that as well.
    I agree with Matt's assessment about the significance of the artist. Which doesn't mean I don't recognize the significance of the viewer.
    You assume that when someone asserts Point A they are automatically denying Points B through Z. Asserting that a photographer tells a story does not translate to denying that a viewer interprets one. Asserting that a photographer has the power to communicate does not deny that the audience will have a significant role to play.
    Colin said: "The photo does not supply the narrative - the viewer does that. "
    It's not unreasonable to ask Colin what the photographer's role is, since he and others don't even mention a role for the photographer or photograph.
     
  49. jtk

    jtk

    I just re-read Ales' original question...
    Interestingly, "art" didn't appear in it.
    Since it's a routinely carelessly-applied word, maybe it would have prevented the clarity Ales seeks....
    Just guessing, but maybe Ales really did ask exactly what he meant to ask: about photography as it relates to language and stories, with no mention of "art" (or fairies or magic).
    Ales, what's your thinking on this?
     
  50. John--
    If you read the thread as carefully as you re-read Ales's original question, you'll see that the question of photography as it relates to language and stories has been dealt with in some depth. What do you have to add to what's been said about that?
    (Yes, art has been brought into it. As you've recognized yourself in other threads, sometimes discussions include other things beside the original main point. We can all choose to address those tangents or not. They are sometimes fruitful. The fact that art has been subsequently mentioned here doesn't negate the many things that have been said about photographs and stories.)
     
  51. jtk

    jtk

    Fred, I'm glad you agree that the intrusion of "art" drew the thread away from the OT...away from "clarity"...
    You're right, it's often fun to explore ideas that ramify away from the OT.
    But it seems remarkably unhelpful to toss "art" into this particular discussion because the OT had SPECIFICALLY to do with clarity of expression... How is clarity possible when a word is used as if it was a lucky charm, without meaning?
    Fred, you are one of the relatively few genuine artists on P.N. Unlike you, I find "art" unusual in photography, as in painting or every other medium, for that matter. You, an actual artist, have repeatedly demonstrated that you are incapable of defining the word "art" ...you, like many, use it habitually as a self-defining lucky charm.
    As you know, I discipline myself away from careless use of the term because I'm interested in actually discerning what "art" meant to people like your beloved Greeks :)
    Perhaps if someone had stepped up to the plate and explained their personal definition of "art" I would be less inclined to ridicule the use of the word. For the most part it seems to mean pictures of Velvet Elvis, Sistine Ceiling, topless dancing, 4X6 snapshots, and bowling as often as it means anything else.
    MY definition of "art" has to do with an impression of magic, something beyond "well executed," beyond "pretty." YMMV.
     
  52. "MY definition of 'art' has to do with an impression of magic, something beyond 'well executed,' beyond 'pretty.' "
    And mine has to do with significance and transcendence. I'm surprised you forgot that.
    The invitation still stands for you to contribute to the discussion about photographs and stories.
     
  53. ...away from "clarity"...​
    I don't think there is any clarity to be obtained. The OP started from an expectation of clarity. But I don't think there is any such thing, neither through the deliberate use of a non-story or through the deliberate use of a story. To what then should we compare this clarity, so that we can assume that it is clear ? To the opposite of clarity ? Who is to judge... I do believe that both storyteller and reciever have a role in how the story will be interpreted, but I believe much less that clarity has anything to do with it.Absolute clarity in expression, or even just ' clarity ', seems a strange concept when one knows that expression is so interconnected with impression. Impressions are more fluid in nature then any concept of ' clarity ', which surely would have to be more static or stationary for it to stay clear, to stay firm in its clarity. But, vaguely paraphrasing a quote here, no emotion, not any other then a wave, can obtain it's position long enough to stay clear in form and intent. Expression, impression, story, no story, science, art,...it's all about a fluid mix of perceptions.
     
  54. jtk

    jtk

    Phylo, I'd like to agree with you...I do agree to a large extent (especially about taking two to tango)...except for "...it's all about..."
    I don't know what you mean by the "it" ...that you're summarizing with such authority ("it's all about")...
    Please be more "clear." :)
    Clarity of response is less difficult when a question is asked as directly as Ales did...it makes clear responses by Matt Laur and a few others more likely, less reliant on buzz words. When someone like Matt uses the word "art" I tend to believe he has something in mind.
    A clue to clarity is brevity (sentence length, paragraph length, grace). Another is the avoidance of sloppy word usage...such as "art" in most conversations.
    To my mind, "art" may be there when something beyond the obvious is evoked...something beyond "beauty," beyond "shock," and beyond a "story"...using "art" when something extra is noticed tells me the term is being used with some intention of clarity.
    What are your thoughts on this?
     
  55. "It may not be the precision of mathemathical teorem, but using tricky language is certainly not helping the clarity."

    Why does a story have be in words? Look at the old films before sound, they were telling stories.

    A good photograph is a journey of the imagination, truly a story of epic proportions.
     
  56. When someone like Matt uses the word "art" I tend to believe he has something in mind.

    You know John, I almost stopped looking at this thread, but I could feel your fish-hook sailing through the air and getting caught in my hair, even with the computer off. So... let's see, here:

    For me, art is communication performed with a deliberate focus on form. That's why art can include both unsophisticated and sublime works, and can appeal to audiences of every background, interest, and degree of subtlety.

    I don't find transcendence essential to art, only deliberation. I also dislike or am unmoved by a lot of - even most - art. But that's because the communication embedded in it is uninteresting to me or is made using symbols that I don't understand.
     
  57. The OP began by expressing his frustration with the use of a word in an understandable, but one might say technically incorrect way. (His kids must drive him nuts!) This started a line of inquiry about the meanings put into pictures that communicate something, the story if you will. Does the maker put the story into the picture or does the viewer read a story into the picture he sees? There is a clear line of commentary supporting the notion that photographers can not only put stories in their work, they can control their handling of the stories in ways that one would expect to be unmistakable to the viewer.
    I less sure about this. In my experience, inspiration and creativity have no explanation themselves, but the work necessary to make the decisions, correct the mistakes and live with the compromises that always seem present in a finished piece of art is clear enough. Fred's insistance on control through the process of photography is right enough, at least within the limits of one's ability, but he seems less willing to accept the trial-and-error aspect of things that allows one to "see what happens if I do this." This is the element that allows the muse to sneak in and, yes, sometimes it makes things interesting in unpredictable ways.
    I have a notion of an hourglass on its side I would like to share. The bulb on one side represents the creative instinct and work the artist puts into making the finished picture. The neck in the middle of the hourglass is the finished work itself. The finished work often hides much of the effort that goes into its making. The bulb on the other side represents the role the viewer plays as he makes something of the image before him. I like the idea of the bulbs because I want to suggest that there is a lot going on on both sides. The artist is behind the image and the viewer is in front of it.
    Artist and viewer wind up in a joint venture one hopes will lead to understanding. But this is not always the case. The artist may not himself be familiar with the nuances of his own subject. The case of a photo of a gang member is an example. The photographer may simply appreciate a colorful character without knowing the significance of the details in his subject's attire. This is to say that it is possible for an artist to have elements in a work without knowing what they contribute to its story.
    The finished work itself provides a disconnect between the artist and his audience. Artists know this and will often honestly tell you that they have no idea how their work will be received and what will become of it. Artists do get annoyed when they hear commentary about their work and wind up thinking that they have no idea what the commentator's remarks have to do with their own understanding of what they made.
     
  58. My point was technical, as Albert says. But technical issues, I believe, are intimately connected with other views of photography, like aestetic and expession value.
    Photos can't tell stories, at least not in a sense novells can. The message of a photo just isn't story, it is a message of a different kind. By no means do I think that photography is of a lesser value. It just doesn't tell stories:
    - Why do photos need captions (»no title« included), if not to give guidance and direction to the viewer? If the photo told a story, no further explanations would be necessary.
    - Why can a single photo be interpreted in so different, even opposite ways? If photo told the story, no excessive ambiguity would be possible.
    - And for the silent movies, why would we need sound movies if there wasn't something to gain in story telling with sound?
    However, is there a practical value in all this philosophy? I believe it is. For example, some time ago I was desperately trying to tell stories with photos. By my opinion the results were awful. The photos were pretentious and with no authenticity. Their message, if any, was pathetic. Only when I gave up on telling stories did I manage to make some photos that at least please me to some extent. I even think that I sometimes express the feeling I had when I pressed the shutter. But no stories any more.
     
  59. Photos can't tell stories, at least not in a sense novells can.

    I believe you're still hung up on the notion that a narrative must be entirely complete, and provide every detail of backstory, plot, and resolution in order to be considered such. Think of a photograph as more of a poem. A poem can provide narrative, mood, and guidance as to the point the poet is making without needing a truckload of expository prose. Likewise with a photograph (many of which don't need a caption any more than King Lear needs the Cliff Notes - even if some people don't get everything Shakespeare was getting at through his use of clothing-related symbols throughout that work).

    Why can a single photo be interpreted in so different, even opposite ways?

    For the same reasons that essays, poems, and even entire novels can be.

    For example, some time ago I was desperately trying to tell stories with photos. By my opinion the results were awful.

    But so are almost every poem, novel, and essay ever written! I'm not horrible with the written word, but I know better than to ever try a novel. It would be absolutely dreadful. I also know better than to get all Leibovitzy and try an aggressively out-there photographic poem, since I'm just not that good at it. But my clumsy photography and awful prose don't stop me from recognizing that both media can be used in a narrative way by people who are good at it, and they don't stop me from trying to keep that in mind with my own compositions.
     
  60. Matt, we were writing simultaneously so there may be some repetition.
    Ales--

    "Why do photos need captions . . . ? If the photo told a story, no further explanations would be necessary."
    Because a photo's stories are often less precise than words. Poems and some novels sometimes also tell imprecise stories and they, too, can require a caption or a foreward.
    Sometimes photographers rely on captions when they shouldn't. Sometimes they could make a better photo by telling the story in the photo instead of resorting to a caption or title.
    "Why can a single photo be interpreted in so different, even opposite ways? If photo told the story, no excessive ambiguity would be possible."
    Same reason a play by Shakespeare or novel by Nabokov can be.
    "And for the silent movies, why would we need sound movies if there wasn't something to gain in story telling with sound?"
    Stuff was gained and lost with talkies. Many think silent movies tell much more effective and complete stories than talkies. But both tell stories.
    For practical value, look through some titled or captioned photos here. Ask yourself how the photographer could have taken or processed the photo so that it wouldn't need the title or the caption (it will work with some, won't work with others). Or don't.
    Albert--
    "Fred's insistance on control through the process of photography"
    Here's what I said about control above: "[T]he photographer has power and a role. I didn't say his finished work will be totally or even greatly under his CONTROL. Because a photographer has the power to tell a story does not mean he has control . . ."
    I don't understand how you translated that to my insistence on control.
    Albert, because I assert Point A, don't assume that means I am rejecting Points B through Z. This applies to:
    "but he seems less willing to accept the trial-and-error aspect of things that allows one to 'see what happens if I do this.' "
    I have been refuting Ales's proposition that photos can't tell stories. So I talked about specific ways in which photographers can tell stories and mentioned tools a photographer can use to do that. I also said that photographers don't have to tell stories and many choose not to. (From above: "A photographer -- you, for instance -- does not have to tell a story. I enjoy being open to the various ways in which people create and consider photographs.")
    Many photographs get created by using experimentation, spontaneity, and serendipity, none of which preculudes telling a story. But because I was talking about story telling and not those other things, you've wrongly come to the conclusion that I am unwilling to accept those things. WOW.
    Once this thread is concluded, I'm going to bow out of these Philosophy discussions for a while. I can't seem to make my points well in this type of format.
    "A clue to clarity is brevity (sentence length, paragraph length, grace). Another is the avoidance of sloppy word usage...such as 'art' in most conversations."
    John Kelly is probably right, at least about internet discussions in Philosophy. The Dick and Jane Come See Spot Run theory of writing works much better. Happy shooting.
     
  61. Fred, I have this image of us both reaching for the same piece of produce at the grocery store, and bumping heads.

    Alas, I've mixed up Lear and MacBeth, too. My high school English teacher would be clucking away, right now, I'm sure.
     
  62. " I don't know what you mean by the "it" ...that you're summarizing with such authority ("it's all about")..."​
    But I think you do know...My use of "it" must refer to everything that precedes it, that precedes the moment, the now. It's memory dependent and it constitutes our perception of reality. For the human mind reality is experienced through and by memory, without it, it loses substantial form. Can the memory contain and hold any clarity ? I doubt it. When considering clarity in this context, clarity would have to be a ' blank canvas ', untouched by the observers observing and devoid of any meaning to consider this supposed clarity against.


    " To my mind, "art" may be there when something beyond the obvious is evoked...something beyond "beauty," beyond "shock," and beyond a "story"...using "art" when something extra is noticed tells me the term is being used with some intention of clarity."​
    I think art is in essence unmeasurable and to use a measure in approaching it ( beyond this, beyond that ) is seeking for expectations where there are non to be obtained. That's not to say that art doesn't deal with clarity, it deals with it through an impossible quest for clarity. I think it's this quest that constitutes art or any reference to it.
     
  63. "Fred, I have this image of us both reaching for the same piece of produce at the grocery store, and bumping heads. "
    Careful, Matt, you're opening yourself up to accusations of hating cereal and soup. :)
     
  64. jtk

    jtk

    "Can the memory contain and hold any clarity ? I doubt it." - Phylo
    We agree about the ultimate importance of memory...and it may not "hold" clarity...
    .... however clarity seems to spring from memory . For me, clarity often comes the day after a formless-seeming experience. When a decision is important I find that it pays to buy time for a day, thinking minimally about the issue...clarity kicks in.
    "I think it's this quest that constitutes art or any reference to it." - Phylo
    Artistry (the activity) may be a quest, but I don't think quest "constitutes art." Quests are often clumsy, some are horrors...they often fail and that risk seems to fuel their charm. America's adventure in Iraq seemed an artless quest. Don Quixote was an old soldier, not an artist, but his foolish quest fueled Cervantes' art. Captain Queeg pursued a mad quest, but the art was Melville's, and it was framed as Ishmael's memory.
     
  65. Story tellnig by a photo? No way. By a novel? No doubt. What about poems? Who knows.
    Hmm, let's see. Novels dont't have a reputation to be misunderstood. Same goes for essays. You may not agree with the idea but the idea can's be really missed. For the poems: poets do not really want to be undestood, do they? In this sense poem is close, but complementary to a photo: there is a message, maybe even powerful one, but it is not a story one can understand clearly. A poet doesn't really care for clarity (otherwise, she or he would write a novel). A photographer may struggle for clarity that can't be reached.
    In my view photography is not a proper tool for telling stories and should not be used for that. Written and spoken word (but not in a verse) are the right tool. (OK, Illyad and Odyssey are great stories in verses. But they are far from clear. I doubt that clarity was the intent.)
    Certainly, a photo can have a powerful message. But it doesn't excell at telling stories. It can't. It does something different. For example let's take the famous Karsh portrait of Churchill (http://karsh.org/#/the_work/portraits/winston_churchill/). Is there a story? Yes, but in a caption by the author, not in a photo. Does the photo has a message? Yes, and so powerful message that no text could ever match it. (Background: the photo was taken during Churchil's tour of USA and Canada in 1941 where he was explaining British cause against Hitler and wanted to get support.) No matter what were (probably forgotten) stories in the newspapers, the tremendous power of the portrait made the cause. But it is not story (or else, a written news with no photo could be as effective), nor it is told.
     
  66. "Novels dont't have a reputation to be misunderstood."
    "In my view photography is not a proper tool for telling stories and should not be used for that"
    Story's in the form of a novel start from imagination. It's not about the book, the language in it, the words themselfes but by what is evoked through the choice of words.The nature of photography suggests that it is, can only be, about the photograph and about that what is photographed. A photograph of a person is about that one particular person, while a story about a person is about how we all can differently imagine that person to be, even if the character is described in detail, no two readers 'see ' the same person.
    So how then, would a story provide more clarity ( which I think should not be considered, neither in a photograph or a novel ), or be a better tool for it ? A photograph seems clear, since all viewers will look at the same person, not to say that all viewers will respond the same, but there's a consensus in what is being depicted in the photograph and it can be accurately described. The words in a novel can't be given a description that stands detached from what the words where set out to describe, and this very description by the author starts and ends with the imagination, whereas the camera's description or recording starts with the factual. Imagination strays away from clarity, just like the objective recording of the camera doesn't add up to it.
    It's about the interpretation that comes out of both, the authors choice of words are the medium for arriving at an interpretation through description, much like the photographer chooses the camera, what to photograph with it and in what way.
     
  67. Ales: it's probably not worth carrying on, here, if you're convinced that only a full-length novel can "tell a story."

    For what it's worth the dictionairy includes, as definitions for the word "story," these:

    ANECDOTE - especially, an amusing one

    and

    a fictional narrative shorter than a novel

    Regardless of how much luck you or I have had working a satisfying narrative element into a photograph, there's simply no escaping the narrative capacity of photography (even without the captions!).

    As for clarity... some would say that few are better than (good) poets at clearly distilling a concept or narrative element down to the spare symbols that best represent it.
     
  68. Hmm, let's see. Novels dont't have a reputation to be misunderstood. Same goes for essays. You may not agree with the idea but the idea can's be really missed. For the poems: poets do not really want to be undestood, do they?​
    I think this might be a good time to suggest letting the matter drop. Literature, especially writing of the calibur studied in Universities, is far richer, more imaginative and complicated than you realize. If you ever have the opportunity you will see for yourself the benefits of exploring the artistic use of language more fully at the hands of the masters. :)
    You have done a wonderful job of kicking off an interesting thread that will be as fresh as it is now when others find it Googleing through PN in the future.
    Albert
     
  69. l_

    l_

    Ales,

    It is the photographer's vision that supplies the story.

    Everything else is up to the viewer.

    Leanne
     
  70. “Literature, especially writing of the calibur studied in Universities, is far richer, more imaginative and complicated than you realize.”
    I think most educated people understand the literature you are referring to, and understand it to varying degrees. More of interest, than the eloquent words and subtle meanings of literature, is the endless equation that all purport to; a balance and equalling that looks constantly to lift the veil of humanity, to offer insights, meanings, and understandings.
    A Photographer travels the same path, and reads the same story; they just communicate it in a different media.
     
  71. It seems we need a definition of the word "Story" here.
    Literaly speaking if one want to tell story the rapport as a form will be most sutable, a poem or novel may have some narative but they also have other elements. There are novels and poems that has nor narative so much less a story. Take a look at Naked Lunch for example.
    On the other hand if you straightly insist that photo tells story then every photo does and everything does and we should talk about how effective this or that one does and to whom.
    I think we need to see difference between literal story telling and creative story telling and maybe a product of abstract creative process which inheretantly has no intention in creating a compehensive naration.
     
  72. "There are novels and poems that has nor narative so much less a story. Take a look at Naked Lunch for example."

    Photography is no different from the written word; it follows the same mores and patterns; why would it be any different because it is visual communication?

    As the story unfolds, it could be fact or fiction, or, merely a technical exercise of factual simplicity. Regardless, there is always a telling; call the telling a story, or, something else as the message unfolds.
     
  73. Nice shots, Allen, but photography is indeed different from written words. What, in your opinion, are the story these pictures you kindly presented here do tell?
    What is it you call a story here?
    1. A piece of coherent information which present clear and singular meaning ? Or.
    2. A piece capable to generate contextual and emotional responce(s) in viewer(s)?
     
  74. story these pictures you kindly presented here do tell?
    What is it you call a story here?
    1. A piece of coherent information which present clear and singular meaning ? Or.
    2. A piece capable to generate contextual and emotional responce(s) in viewer(s)?
    “but photography is indeed different from written words”
    An equal claim is the different of dissimilarity between mathematics and literature .However, both are on a journey of seeking truths; the poetry of life exists in both.
    Photography communicates in it’s own way, no different in it’s messages than any other medium. Unfortunately, the better works, as in any other media, do not paint by numbers giving little effort for those wanting to understand.
     
  75. Artistry (the activity) may be a quest, but I don't think quest "constitutes art."​
    John, maybe you're right, in a way that quest does not constitute art but encompasses everything and anything, which also includes art. A story within a story within a story within a story...Quest is perhaps a too heavy word choice, as it alludes to a romanticised notion of seeking, searching, and trying to obtain something palpable out of living life, which isn't at all that romantic as we can imagine it to be. So a simple " search" might do as well.
    A search for absolute clarity is still futile I think, at least in the way I would imagine " clarity" to be , as something that consists of ONE solid perspective, a "zero". The strangely fascinating ' Sunflower ' image in your gallery is to me clear in providing some other perspective to the one we might be more accustomed to, even though this other perspective that you showed is also perfectly normal, acceptable in it's inevitability. Alluding to the possibility of a confrontation <> alignment of these and every other perspective(s) might be what art is all about and what the artist is and must set out to do.
     
  76. "Photography is no different from the written word; it follows the same mores and patterns; why would it be any different because it is visual communication?"​
    Photography being visual (and still) communication is exactly the reason why it is so different from written word. It's communication power is limited to what can be seen, understood and perhaps triggered from visual capture of short time interval of certain real situation. My point is that, although much can be communicated visually, everything can't be. I think the limitation just prevents a photo to tell a story. It can show situation, communicate perhaps an elementary feeling (or trigger it), but not a story as I understand it.
    The thing that comes to my mind is that photo can be thought of as a sort of a visual equivalent to short one-sentence aphorism. It's purpose is not a story, but to present an elementary feeling or thought in a new way. To make you halt for a moment and think about it.
     
  77. “My point is that, although much can be communicated visually, everything can't be. I think the limitation just prevents a photo to tell a story”
    You could equally argue that although much can be communicated by words, not everything can be; take for instance a photographs of a house as opposed to mere words describing it. To argue that visual communication is the lesser storyteller is to deny the impact and storytelling abilities of the great photographs of the past centuries. A good example is the classic photograph of what is called the napalm girl ...would the written word have offered more of a story or less?
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/pop_ups/05/asia_pac_enl_1115306756/html/1.stm
     
  78. You could equally argue that although much can be communicated by words, not everything can be;​
    My point exactly.
    To put it in a "mathematical way": the sets of what can be effectively expressed with words and with images do not coincide. The sets could even have an empty (or perhaps very small) cross-section.
     
  79. Ales: Let's try another approach. Do you consider a story to be a story only when you have every last conceivable detail provided to you? Is a novel that leaves even a single sub-plot unresolved failing to tell a story? How about two sub-plots? Three? Ten? If you want to use set theory to illustrate your point, then you must also be clear about the other terms you're using. Please provide your working definition for "story." That will help.
     
  80. Matt,
    I like to think of a story as defined in webster's:
    1. An account describing incidents or events; "a farfetched narrative"; "after dinner he told the children stories of his adventures".
    2. A piece of fiction that narrates a chain of related events; "he writes stories for the magazines".
    3. Structure consisting of a room or set of rooms comprising a single level of a multilevel building; "what level is the office on?".
    4. A record or narrative description of past events: "a history of France"; "he gave an inaccurate account of the plot to kill the president"; "the story of exposure to lead".
    5. A short account of the news; "the report of his speech"; "the story was on the 11 o'clock news"; "the account of his speech that was given on the evening news made the governor furious".
    6. A trivial lie; "he told a fib about eating his spinach"; "how can I stop my child from telling stories?".​
    OK, take out No. 3 and No. 6, and this is it.
     
  81. OK, that helps.

    When someone tells a "farfetched narrative," do you find that it has to be a complete work, relating every detail that might be of interest to the audience? Or can the teller's narrative simply relate that about the scene or event(s) which stir the imagination and entertain?

    What if someone were to say to you, "... and as I was walking between those two modern office buildings in the middle of the busy city, I came upon a rough-looking blacksmith, earnestly forging wrought ironwork over a hot flame in the middle of the sidewalk!"

    Would that be a bit of a story, then? Do you care what the narrorator had for lunch, or whether the blacksmith was using propane vs. coal, what the alloy of the metal was, or even whether we'll even know why the narrorator was on that street, or what the blacksmith creating? Isn't it enough that you experienced - vicariously through the narrorator's story - that momentary surprise of encountering a blacksmith working on the sidewalk? Is the telling of that moment of surprise and interest not a story? Since I contend that the relating of such a narrative is the telling of a story, however brief, then so is this photograph (tip o' the hat to Ton Mestrom).
     
  82. Erm, Matt, that's just a picture of some bloke doing something in the street... Not much of a "story" is it...?
     
  83. Personally I think a photograph "telling a story" is an exaggeration. A photographs may show what something looked like when the photograph was made. It may be constructed of elements in such a way that it suggests events (but typically not many events in one photo). A set of photographs may illustrate a story powerfully, but the details and facts of the story really have to be told in words. If the reader is just given a picture, without any context given in words, no one would be able to decipher what was really going on. Books have been traditionally illustrated with drawings, which give a hint to the viewer of what the author or illustrator imaged things to look like in the story. But without the text, the reader is clueless of the sequence of events and the details. This is why a photograph or an illustration alone can not tell any complex story, any story with details in it, and words are the medium which is used to tell real stories, perhaps illustrated with pictures - or not, if what things looked like is not considered relevant.
    I think it's pretty pompous of photographers to claim that they tell stories with pictures. At best they can support stories by illustrating them. And if they're good illustrators, they'll grab the eyes of viewers who may then read the details of the story. Without words the interpretations of the picture will vary so widely from viewer to viewer there is actually little or no actual information transferred from the photographer to the viewer.
     
  84. that's just a picture of some bloke doing something in the street... Not much of a "story" is it...?

    Exactly. It's not much of a story, but it has narrative elements. Just like a sentence. Or a paragraph. Or ten paragraphs. Or a chapter. Or a novel. Where (precisely!) do you draw the line, well enough that you can say a photograph can't deliver a narrative? How little text does it take to fall below the same threshold?
     
  85. Matt. Your suggestion seems to bring us to conclusion that EVERY THING tells a story, a picture, a word, a propan ... That does not make much sense, is it not?
     
  86. No, Ilia, my point is that a photograph can do so. Not that all - or even most of them - even come close to doing so, or need to.
     
  87. Thanks, Matt. I will appreciate if you bring here one good example of photo which in your opinion tells a story in clear and distinctive way and another one which does not ?
     
  88. Matt, for me the issue is not whether a photo can tell a story or not... The question is how much of a story can a photo tell me... For a single still image, the answer is pretty clear: not very much at all. That's just common sense.
    Yes, a set of photographs can tell a story, particularly if presented in some form of sequence. For example, if I watch a movie with the sound turned down, I basically see a bunch of photos strung together very quickly... In many cases, I may be able to follow the general gist of the story reasonably well. But show me a single frame from that movie and I won't be able to say much about the "story" at all. Unless I'm already familiar with the story, I'll just have to guess.
    Now, you can argue that a still image may tell us some form of "story"... Fine. No problem with that. But given that a single photograph is a piddle-poor way of giving an account of a series of events over time, it ain't gonna be much of one, is it? (Yep, we can hold the shutter open for a while, and record the passing of time for more than just a fraction of a second... But the end result is merely a single still photographic image, and that's simply not a very effective way to tell a story.)
    And yes, we can show an airliner crashing into a skyscraper, or a naked child running down a road in front of some soldiers, or whatever... But that doesn't tell us much of a "story". It simply shows us a visual representation of what was happening during the (typically very short) time the shutter was open. And that's simply not enough to be considered to offer much in the way of narrative, in my opinion... Can a photo make an effective, eye/imagination-grabbing picture for the front of a newspaper or book...? Sure. But it's not telling the "story".
     
  89. Ha, Ilkka has got it to the point. And Paul.
     
  90. "Yes, a set of photographs can tell a story, particularly if presented in some form of sequence."

    I glad we can agree on that simple fact , not so sure about if it needs to be in a sequence; however, the photographer’s story is not a novel, or, Tolstoy’s War and Peace...which is different media communicating in a different way.

    There seems to be a confusion that a photograph should read like a book, if it did, well, it would be a book not a photograph. A photograph has its own way of communicating its story, and like any good book requires an imagination and thought.

    Just for the record, i really don’t think any photograph thinks their photograph tell a story the same as a piece of narrative. Nevertheless, a story it does tell which can be equally as revealing in its ability to communicate as any piece of wordsmithing.
     
  91. A thousand.....
    00TG0J-131473684.jpg
     
  92. I suggest to all who have participated in this discussion to go back a few years and look at some Life magazines. For those of you not familiar with the concept the tool used in those magazines to communicate was a series of photographs called a photo essay. For those of you who aren't familiar with his work, check out the famous photo essays of Eugene Smith and his last book Minimata which told the story, through photography, of mercury poisoning in Japan. Those who don't believe photographs tell stories are ignoring almost the entire history of photography. Its laughable.
     
  93. Allen,
    the photo of old woman to some extent communicates her emotion. But no story at all. Like why is she crying? Could that be tears of joy? Sorry, can't guess it for sure from the photo, it's simply not enough information.
     
  94. John: the thread has really come down to an Olympic Semantics Wrestling sort of thing. It does seem fair to mention that the OP is talking about an image's ability to provide some narrative, not a series of images. A photo essay can, by virtue of the additional context that it provides, deliver far more "story" than can a stand-alone image. Which isn't to say that a stand alone image can't provide some insight into a chain of events (a story).

    Such a narrative element just needs to provide plausible clues about a past and the present, or about the present and the future (or, all three, if one is able).

    To answer part of Ilia's question/request, above, I'll make an attempt using an image I have handy, already posted here. No, it's not much of a photograph. But it has a narrative to it. It also serves to point out that the viewer of an image may not see the narrative without being literate in the symbols and visual clues with which the photographer is communicating.

    With the shot below, some people will say, "Come on, Matt, it's just a guy sitting there with a dog. There's no story being told, no narrative."

    Others will see a elderly guy with a tired but happy look on his face, resting his bones on a tree stump log, while a mudded-up, hot and winded (note the tongue hanging out) pointing dog does a full-body bonding hug to show her appreciation and delight at what they've just been doing. You can tell the dog is physically fit, which tells us much about its lifestyle and purpose.

    On the right we see a row of just-shot game birds, and the shotgun used (along with the hunting dog) to bring them in out of the field. We can tell from the body language of the two subjects that they've just finished that task, and enjoyed the challenge. We can tell from the careful position of the breeched shotgun, the garb, and the non-casual line-up of the birds that the old gent is not new at this, and takes safety and etiquette seriously. We can tell from the structure on which they're sitting that they're in a rural spot, probably a working farm, since those are obviously apple or other fruit crates stacked up there just behind them.

    So this image, for an audience familiar with the matters at hand, absolutely tells a quick story about what's just been happening, about the subjects in it and how they relate to what they've been doing (they're pleased at how they've just spent their time, they're not new to it, etc), and puts the scene into a type of place that tells even more about how the preceeding events likely went. A similarly narrative shot having to do with rugby players or a quilting bee would probably be silent to me, narratively, since I don't have the cultural or visual vocabulary to see the narrative in images on those subjects, unless they're telling more universal stories. But does the story of this man and his loyal dog have to include information about whether that's a 12 or a 20 gauge shotgun, or whether that's an English Pointer or a German Shorthair without a docked tail? No. Are any of the words I used above necessary (as a caption) for some audiences to feel the narrative? No. For other audiences, no amount of accompanying exposition would make this image matter to them, regardless.
    00TGQ1-131749684.jpg
     
  95. John, take your favorite novel and show how you'd tell the same story with pictures only. Let's expose the novel and the pictures to separate audiences (randomly selected). Let them describe the story. Which method of communication do you think will be more efficient and especially, unambigous and accurate? To call a photo essay 'a story' is pretentious. It might be a story in the same sense like a cave painting but it's a very primitive form of expressing stories of any sophistication. What is more, as a story-telling method photography is extremely inefficient; a photographer for LIFE or National Geographic might spend a year of their working lives on a single essay which gives very little details in way of a sequence of events in time. If the same space is used for text, or a blend of text and photographs, much, much more information can be communicated. A photo essay with no words is a pretty pathetic attempt at communicating stories.
    Allen, your photo includes words. So there is a woman who is sad, probably because her husband died. That's one sentence. A real story might tell details of their lives, what they did, how they met, fell in love, what their life was like, where they went, how he fell ill, and died, what their children do. That might be a story, when told out in detail . A one sentence story is just one sentence. Pretty unsophisticated and when told in words, no one would think it's much of a story. The fact that you can see how she looked like after the funeral is hardly substitute for a proper description of a sequence of events. An interesting story has to have a sophisticated plot.
    I am all for using photography to illustrate stories. I think this is a wonderful application and the result can be artistic, effective, sophisticated, and beautiful. But a set of photos without significant text - the only story that that tells me is that the photographer is unable to write well enough to have text published (surely there are details of the story which could better be communicated in words) and is such a difficult person that they can't work with an author who could write something. Which is a sad story but ultimately it just describes the failing of an education system. It's like a story which is not told, and the reader is left uncertain about what it is about. Now, if the photo essay is on a topic which is known to everyone (like e.g. showing pictures of events related to recent news) then the actual story is already in our minds and the photographs just add something to it, but the whole thing would be meaningless without the background of news which is typically communicated via words in newspapers, magazines, and TV which set the viewer's brain to understand the hints to the story. But try to tell a story unknown to the public with any sophistication with pictures only and you'll fail miserably.
     
  96. Matt's photograph is a good example.
    To repeat what I said long ago, the "literacy" of the viewer is essential for any storytelling a photograph (or any other medium) can tell. And I would like to raise again the question that, if the story content depends on some sort of interaction between what the photographer thought he was doing and what the viewer brings to the viewing, from where does "the story" actually originate, and what is its "real" content?
     
  97. So Ilkka, it really does seem that you're not talking about what a photograph can or cannot do, but what "story" is in the first place. The implication is that brevity or lack of lots of detail mean that a narrative isn't ... a narrative. Your cave painting example is a very good one. Of course a few crudely drawn critters, running human shapes and airborn spears can tell the story of a hunt. It doesn't mention what the weather was, or whether one of the hunters was an orphan or about to get married or wearing a brand new designer loin cloth, but it can say "five members of our tribe fed us this month after hunting a bison on foot."

    So what if it's not sophisticated? If the cave painting isn't a Rembrandt, is it too unsophisticated to be called a painting? Is a a short story not really a story because it's not a novel? You can't dismiss a shorter narrative as being unable to provide a narrative. You're essentially saying, "I won't say how many details are necessary to make it a story, but I know it when I see it." That sort of vague hair-splitting on the subject completely misses the point of whether a photograph can be narrative in nature, and dwells instead on equating "story" with a complex, lengthy form. That's simply not the common or only usage for the word.

    None of this has anything to do with whether you, personally, find any given photograph to be gratifyingly narrative in content, structure, or context. That's completely subjective, and I'm with you there. But we could say the same things, exactly, about songs, poems, paintings, short stories, novels, or any other form of human expression. A photograph can contain the information to communicate a narrative, however very minimal it may be. That has nothing to do with whether it's necessary or even interesting to many people.
     
  98. Matt, I prefer to think of a single photo as simply showing a still image of a certain scene rather than offering a meaningful story/narrative in itself... I can then associate this picture (and perhaps others...) with whatever real or fanciful story I see fit, in whatever way I see fit, either directly or indirectly.
    Larry's question ("from where does "the story" actually originate") is an interesting one, and in many cases the answer is surely "from our own imaginations, mostly"... This can be fun to play with from time to time, naturally.
     
  99. One of the things that stands out for me in Matt's picture is that the hunter is not wearing a wristwatch. I wonder if he's got a pocket watch, or if he's let go of clock-time. A dog lover might read this picture differently than a hunter would. I originally thought the woman on the bench had a cold or allergy.
    In literature, all texts produce a plurality of readings. Each reader (or analyst's) interpretation varies. Why should photographs be any different? There is no final, definitive or correct meaning. A plurality of interpretations is a wellspring of power. Art is a psychic generator, an object whose content is impossibly larger than its envelope. Viewers often see things in a photograph (artwork or text) than its creator intended. Are we inventing, discovering, or recognizing meaning? Or producing possibilities of life?
     
  100. l_

    l_

    'It might be a story in the same sense like a cave painting'.






    Exactly :)




    and like primitive cave painting we are moved to imagine who the artist was, what gender, under what conditions they lived and why they felt the need to inscribe their emotive feelings for others to read.


    Like graffiti art today. We admire the aesthetic, imagine a bit, and if the work is that interesting recognise the artist next time we see their work.



    And if the is THAT good, we maybe feel our own emotions reflected in what we see.



    If you don't understand vision then you are speaking from a viewers point of view.


    Photographers should care only about vision.

    You can work on vision intially by working on sequences of images, a very good place to start finding yourself and your own voice.
     
  101. “What is it you call a story here?
    1. A piece of coherent information which present clear and singular meaning ? Or.
    2. A piece capable to generate contextual and emotional responce(s) in viewer(s)?”
    Both, ilkka. To use your own words a piece of information, which represents a meaning of emotion, distress, lost love, and most of all deep heart felt rendering. A piece that is capable of being able to generate an empathetic emotional response from the viewer.
    “That might be a story, when told out in detail .”
    Why in detail?
    Any writer worth their salt will tell you that the most important part of their prose is being able to invoke imagination, feelings, and an emotional response from their reader.
    That is where you will find the true story in any piece of serious prose or poetry.
     
  102. “What is it you call a story here?
    1. A piece of coherent information which present clear and singular meaning ? Or.
    2. A piece capable to generate contextual and emotional responce(s) in viewer(s)?”
    Both, ilkka. To use your own words a piece of information, which represents a meaning of emotion, distress, lost love, and most of all deep heart felt rendering. A piece that is capable of being able to generate an empathetic emotional response from the viewer.
    “That might be a story, when told out in detail .”
    Why in detail?
    Any writer worth their salt will tell you that the most important part of their prose is being able to invoke imagination, feelings, and an emotional response from their reader.
    That is where you will find the true story in any piece of serious prose or poetry.
    00TI9o-132665884.jpg
     
  103. Looking beyond the cover.
     
  104. When Dorothea Lange took the picture of the Migrant Mother, the story was the Depression and Dust Bowl. You can see the anguish on the mom's face. You can see the despair and desire to rise above. When Rothstein took the photograph of the man and his two kids running to get inside from a dust storm, the story is how the land has been punished and how the earth is punishing back. You can also ask the one question I have never heard anyone ask, Why did the father leave the younger of the two sons behind? These photographs have al become iconic of the Dirty Thirties and were even useful in getting the plight of the Southern Plains told to the East Coasters. All photos tell a story, the real question is, is the story even interesting?
    Image removed. Per the photo.net Terms of Use, do not post photos that are not yours.
     
  105. Telling, showing, illustrating, picturing, depicting, stating, saying, speaking, imaging, exposing, communicating, declaring, informing, reporting, revealing, representing, demonstrating, illuminating, interpreting, revealing, portraying, drawing, painting, representing, sketching, interpreting, describing, designing, relating, reproducing, articulating, elucidating, expressing, presenting, conveying, disclosing, suggesting, asserting, conversing, reflecting........
    Anyone want to add more words?
     
  106. Val,
    Great. Interesting how sometimes the verbs are so much more important than a silly old noun.
    --Fred
     
  107. So far people seem mostly to be concentrating on photos (or, more accurately, photographers) which have as their goal the "communication" or "evoking" (as opposed to telling) of a specific story (i.e. photojournalism) and whether or not they succeed in this, whereas in recent years a number of photographers have explored other more interesting angles, namely the "telling" of fluid, non specific, "open" stories. I.e. situations which i think are left deliberately ambiguous and ill-defined so as to allow the viewer the chance to create their own narratives.
    A couple of examples I can think of are the fashion photographer Robert Wyatt ( http://www.robertwyatt.net/ ), and artist / photographer Nigel Bennett ( http://www.bennettism.com/ ). While Wyatt mostly creates campaigns for luxury fashion brands, he often manages to bring in an extra soemthing lacking in other commercial photographer's work: a subtlety and intelligence that doesnt patronise the viewer (see his campaign for Prada for example).
    Of course, this "openess" to interpretation is present in any image or photo, regardless as to whether the photographer intended such a thing or not - as the viewer will always interpret the work as colored by their own personal experiences. but what is interesting about the photos of both Bennet and Wyatt is an apparent acknowledgment by the photographer of the futility of trying to fix a meaning and instead they seem to strive for a deliberate open-endedness, inviting the viewer to participate in the storytelling. Or in other words, rather than dictating outcomes, they provide the raw materials that permit the viewer to "tell" the story his/herself.
    [Moderator's note: Please do not upload photos that are not your own; it's a violation of copyright laws and of photo.net's Terms of Use.]
     

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