07 December 2007

Narrative Photography

Update: fixed the link for Jeff Wall's Mimic, so if you read this already but couldn't see the photo, try now.

I've just signed up for a course on Narrative Photography at Focal Point, the photography school a block away from where I live (one of the reasons I moved to this house). Narrative Photography includes photojournalism, documentary photography, some kinds of travel photography. It's photography that tells a story, whether in a single photograph or a photo essay.

I was in Future Shop yesterday buying a small portable camera to keep with me in my purse all the time. I ended up buying a Canon PowerShot G9, after reading Paul Butzi's glowing recommendation. I had a pleasant experience with the salesman, Rick, who helped me. He is an avid photographer himself and was very knowledgeable and engaging (rare for Future Shop employees). We had a great conversation, exchanged recommendations for good photography websites, etc. He asked me who my favorite photographer is. I said Art Wolfe, a Seattleite who does beautiful nature and wildlife photos, particularly of the Pacific Northwest. Rick called that kind of work "eye candy" and introduced me to narrative photographer Jeff Wall, a Vancouver native who does "cinematic photography." He develops a concept, hires actors, sets up a scene, and takes thousands of shots of it until he gets it just right. Rick showed me some of Wall's work on the web at the store's computer. Wow! Check out this amazing photograph of his: Mimic. Look closely at the gesture the guy in the middle is making (view it in detail by clicking on the detail sqaure to the right). And the facial expressions on the other two. Now that is photography that tells a story!

I realize that most of my photos do not really tell stories, beyond just "this looks cool!" I hope the class on narrative photography will help me advance to a whole new level in my art. Today's photo is an attempt at narrative. The photo tells it all, but if you want the details behind it: It was taken on the property of my cousin in Hood River, Oregon, where I spent Thanksgiving this year. There had been a big wildfire Hood River in August and it came to within about 60 feet of my cousin's house!

Speaking of narrative photography, one of the more lengthy and interesting threads on photo.net's Forums is "Should a Picture tell a story?" Not all are in agreement about that.

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