As I proceed with THE TRUTH & BEAUTY OF ME I want to explore how some other photographers have approached emotional projects. I am looking to understand how different forms of narrative are used to guide the viewer. What is the role of words? Are moving images part of the package? What other techniques are being used.
Small Town Inertia – J A Mottram
Mottram tells the story of his subject, David, by starting with a summary of his situation in words. This is supplemented by quotes from David in to which images of David are added. The combination is moving and comprehensive. The words lead in to the images which raise further questions which words then give some hints of answers. All images are black and white with consistent contrast and lighting. Much of the story is told with the expressions in the faces of the subjects.
In Tilney1 Mottram starts with a quote from Tilney “When I was completely and utterly depressed, but, like a nice depression, I was still able to take films in, but, I was watching them all on my own.”. He then provides prose to create an impression of Tilney’s condition. A mixture of quotes, Mottram prose and images then work on each other.
The combination of prose, quotes from the subject and images work powerfully on each other. Mottram grabs attention with all three. The quotes are haunting but connect me with the subject. The prose is concise and relevant and merge with the images. The images are a language of their own added to by the surrounding words on the page.
Consistency of images is important. In this series facial expressions tell a lot and lighting is similar.
Steve Pyke : Jack and Duncan
Pyke presents a series of images of his children as they grow year by year. Above is the beginning middle and current end of his series on Jack. There are no words with the images other than the dates. A narrative unfolds in my own mind from the images. It can’t be true as it is all based on my projections on to the images from the poses and expressions in each of the images. However, it feels true to me.
Pyke also presents them as aged and not quite perfect photo album shots in black and white.
The same subject at different times presented in a sequence creates a narrative. The viewer creates the narrative from their projections. It would be a very different experience if a summary of Jack was given and quotes. The images as presented are a powerful experience. Adding prose and quotes could be as powerful in a different way if they can merge with the narrative of the images in a meaningful way for the viewer.
Alicia Bruce : Menie, Trumped
In this work Bruce starts with a description of the issue. Donald Trump is going to build a golf course in the Menie Estate in Scotland.
‘Alicia Bruce’s photographic portraiture retells the stories of the Menie residents, not to monumentalize or misrepresent them but in order to fix their message more securely in the cultural imagination. By restaging compositions from celebrated paintings (the majority of them in the permanent collection of the local Aberdeen Art Gallery), Bruce eloquently carves out the residents’ place in Scottish heritage.’ Text: Dr Catriona McAra, University of Edinburgh, 2010 on above referenced Bruce website.
The images of the residents of Menie are accompanied by quotes from those residents. The changing of the land use has no quotes with it. You the viewer can make up your own mind from the words and images of the residents and images without words of the impact the change is having on the landscape. It works very well.
Here is the power of what is said and not said. Providing a description of the issue primes the jury. Evidence is then provided with images of residents and quotes to give you a view. Then you get images without words on which you the viewer can make your own judgements based on the inputs you have been given and any prejudices you have. Very effective.
Peter Dench – Alcohol and England
Peter Dench considers the English relationship with alcohol. In his website for this piece he outlines the issue and poses some questions as to why this relationship is so strong and so dangerous. There are no words with the images on his website but there is a very strong narrative from within the images. Each image tells us something we all can recognise from living in England and an overall message comes across. He has published the images in a book which I have not yet seen.
On his website each of the images is butted up against the next and slide along side by side. The effect of this is for the eye to rove across images.
The viewer is primed with the brief and then can make their own judgements from their projections on to the material they see. The choice of one image at a time or a sequence of images side by side needs to be intentional. Both can work but it is important to ask the question what is my intent.
Less text means more interpretation is left to the viewer.
Marcus Bleasdale – Unravelling Gallery
Marcus provides a brief of the issue of the Seleka rebels going from Chad into Central Africa Republic. He then gives a caption with each image. Each image is shown on its own and a story unfolds as you the viewer goes through the images in sequence.