It can be difficult for an image maker who’s surrounded by word smiths. Writers typically want me to tell the whole story in an image. But story telling photography isn’t actually aimed at telling the story most of the time. Instead it’s aimed at selling the story. The goal is to warm the viewer up to the story & draw them in. Good photography invokes a question ‘Wow what’s this about?’. A good story on the other hand invokes an exclamation mark ’Fascinating, I didn’t know that!’.
For me, the bigger the question I can invoke, the better. To do that I create a sense of drama & use every photographic aid & visual cue available. But mostly I try to create an image that has integrity. By that I mean that every part of the image adds something to the message, so the parts are integrated. The subject, composition, lighting, colours, movement, background etc, are all supporting our story. With that here are three examples of what was done to create a story telling photograph, & what the story was.
Story Telling Photograph: The story would be dramatic so I lit our subject in order to darken the sky & make it blue, cold, possibly weather beaten. His hands cupped under the falling canola seed (mentioned in the header text) shows how important it is to him, but it’s slipping away from him fast. Why? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
The Story: Farmer Geoffrey Carracher is against Genetic Modification. His canola seed has been cross contaminated with genetically modified seed from a nearby farm. He would no longer be able to say his crop was GM free.
Story Telling Photograph: I was initially asked to photograph this family with a 160kg load of sugar in their kitchen. I resisted this because visually I knew it could look similiar to a pile of product in a supermarket aisle. I wanted a photo where everything about it makes the audience ask ‘why?’. The driveway with the family home as a bachdrop would make a statement & is more clearly about home. Having the parent half hidden & holding the youngest child up helped emphasise the amount of sugar, as did placing the other young child in front.
The Story: The average family consumes 160kg of sugar per year, either directly or by consuming added sugar in food.
The Story Telling Photo: I needed to make a dramatic portrait of Haiyan Zhang. I wanted her to be surrounded by people, but to be the clear focus of the image. By using a 1 second exposure all the people surrounding our subject are blurred enough that Haiyan stands out, yet the clear message is that she is surrounded by people. It’s eye catching, & it must have a story to tell, but what is it?
The Story: Haiyan Zhang is a web entrepreneur and ‘technologist’ who created the crowdsourcing ideas website, www.openIDEO.com.