Recently, I heard a photographer, one that I respect quite considerably, say that when he takes a photograph, he approaches the task as a “story teller”.
That got me thinking about how I approach taking photographs.
I know that I am NOT a “story teller” – that is something I can be quite certain of.
What is my definition of a “Photographer Story Teller”? This is a Photographer who can see a scene, and then through the visual art of Still Photography, translate onto film (or digital file) what is happening, or what had happened in that scene.
Some Photographers are expert at this story telling skill. Recently, I read an article about Chargesheimer (aka, Karl Heinz Hargesheimer), who was a Street Photographer / Social Documentary Photographer after the Second World War. His photographs show life in urban Germany in the 1950’s and 60’s. I think People, Place and Time captured in one frame, when done skillfully by the Photographer, then an observer can pretty quickly see what the environment and atmosphere are in that place. When the necessary elements are put into place in the photographic frame, when the image is captured at that decisive moment, then that makes a “story telling photograph”…A good story telling photograph.
I think that I’m an “interpreter-alchemist”.
I do not go into a photographic session hoping to tell a story. If I were photographing people in a social environment, then yes, I would hope to capture their story. But I shoot “things” usually. Small subjects.
I look at an item, the subject. I eyeball it for a time…sometimes for a long time and I see how it looks, the form, the design, the texture and color. And then, I ask myself, “How do I want to make this look? How should I interpret this subject?” “How can I change this subject to look the way I want (or need) it to look?”
I am of the opinion that my small subjects don’t have stories. What is important to me is to interpret and change (the “alchemist” part) the subjects as I see them in my minds eye. Therefore, when I look at one of my photographs I can say: “This is how I view this subject…This is how I wanted people to see this ‘thing’. My photographs may be total misrepresentations of the real makeup of the subject. I may change the color, the hue, the physical features, or make it so that the item defies gravity, marks time, or any other number of features that will help me change the subject to my visual interpretation.
Well…maybe you have a different way of approaching your photography, and that is good. We all can’t be the same, and differences make us human and creative beings.