Assignment 3: refining the theme

To recap: my subject for the Visual Storytelling assignment is the anti-fracking movement in Yorkshire. I’ve been researching more around the subject in order to narrow the issue down to a manageable photo essay theme with an identifiable narrative.

I’m keeping in mind that the assignment calls for a sense of narrative, over and above a general photo essay, and that I need to keep this objective in mind at all stages of the assignment:

  • Planning
  • Shooting
  • Selection
  • Sequencing
  • Presentation

So far my planning has unfolded a little too much in my head and not enough written down or sketched out – hence this post, which summarises my planning so far (planning in this case is not a discrete stage but is continuing to happen alongside shooting – it’s been somewhat iterative).

Planning progress so far

Following the decision in May by North Yorkshire County Council to approve the test drilling planning application, little is happening in terms of the actual fracking work over the summer; the breaking of the ground is due to start in October. I had to therefore think of ‘angles’ that would provide me with material for a visual story over the summer.

Rejected theme

As noted in my first assignment prep post, I have decided to focus on the expansion of the movement to other parts of North Yorkshire, after the publicity surrounding the Kirby Misperton decision. However, it’s worth noting here an alternative idea that I had floated then ruled out:

Staying focused on the immediate local issue (i.e. the approved ‘KM8’ site in Kirby Misperton), a photo essay following the judicial review process being instigated by the Frack Free Ryedale team in collaboration with Friends of the Earth

I ruled this out for a couple of reasons. Firstly, even though I have a contact on the Frack Free Ryedale leadership team, he would have had to get approval from multiple other parties (lawyers, FoE) to shoot at meetings, and they are reasonably wary of outsiders; and more importantly because the judicial review process is inherently visually dull! Lots of meetings with lawyers and not much else.

Honing in on a narrative thread

So: it’s going to be about how the local Frack Free movement has rapidly grown beyond Ryedale in the last 2-3 months. This will be inherently a people-focused project, and fits in well with some other OCA assignments I have done on volunteer groups over the last couple of years.

However, even this subject area is a little broad and vague. I needed to refine it down to an identifiable narrative. This didn’t immediately emerge, but became more apparent to me after I’d attended a couple of events as part of my research.

Below is a note I scribbled whilst planning:


Hopefully this makes some kind of sense but if not: my proposed narrative thrust is something along the lines of the following:

  • The anti-fracking movement started small, parochial and fragmented…
  • … with unlikely activists learning how to protest ‘on the job’…
  • … and being endearingly amateurish a lot of the time…
  • … until the word started spreading and groups started interacting…
  • … culminating in a Yorkshire-wide movement made up of a coalition of several smaller groups

Next steps

  • I now need to combine the above narrative framework to the thinking from a couple of pieces of research on the nature of photographic narrativity and a suggested workflow for planning and shooting photo essays
  • This will give me a ‘shooting script’ to work to (notwithstanding I have already taken some shots, and so some of the ‘scripting’ will be retroactive)
  • I need to review shots taken so far and map them onto the shooting script
  • And identify opportunities to fill in any gaps in the shooting script for which I have no current candidates

More to follow… I’m in the zone on this one now…


3 thoughts on “Assignment 3: refining the theme

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