Even though on the face of it this assignment has more in common with Assignment 1 (traditional documentary photography style) than Assignment 2 (more conceptual / constructed), I’m developing it in a way that combines elements of both approaches.
As it is intended to be a ‘visual storytelling’ piece of work, it can’t just end up being a set of thematically-connected images (like Assignment 1 was), it needs to have an extra element, a backbone of narrativity.
This means that I need to do more structured planning upfront and direct the images (at both shooting and selection stages) towards a particular narrative intention. I have spent the last few days doing some detailed reading and planning around how this can be approached, and the advice I found from both David Campbell and Bill Hurn fits with an idea that I’d had a few weeks ago when first thinking about the assignment.
Basically, I’m trying an approach where I write out the narrative in words first, see if it makes sense, then match images to the intended messages in the written version.
It’s been very iterative: whilst I’ve had this words-first approach in mind for a while, it’s only after attending some local anti-fracking events (for both research and shooting) that I have really honed this narrative to a point where it makes sense.
The draft written version
I reserve the right to deviate from this, but it’s the first written version of my intended narrative:
- The anti-fracking movement started small, parochial and endearingly amateurish
- These aren’t your regular activists and are kind of learning ‘on the job’
- Some small-scale local activities take place to try to raise the profile of the issue
- Word gets around as speakers from Frack Free Ryedale started holding meetings in outlying towns and villages
- The scale of the potential problem becomes more apparent to people in the wider region
- More people from other areas of Yorkshires start to get mobilised
- A more diverse set of people get involved – families in particular
- Increasingly large groups from different towns start working together
- People started to look and act more united for the common cause
- Finally the various action groups see the benefit of working together as a mass movement
The short version is the movement’s journey:
- Growing from small, parochial and fragmented…
- … to large, regional and coordinated
The David Campbell lecture talks about some of the dimensions of narrative that can be applied in a photographic story:
- Time: this will be implied in the growth narrative (and also broadly follows the chronology of the photos themselves, I think)
- Space: the geographical spread of the movement is part of the story, and will be illustrated specifically in an image I visualise to be in the middle of the set
- Drama: not too sure there’s a huge amount of drama? we’ll see
- Causality: I’ll be trying to point out the connection between the ‘communication campaign’ in the middle of the set and the subsequent mass interest
- Personification: there’ll be lots of people shots but I might use one person twice to make a connecting point between the early and later phases in the story
There’s a particular visual device that I want to see if I can use to help carry the growth narrative: I’m working on the idea of having a steadily increasing number of people in the photos as the set progresses – one person in the first picture, hundreds in the last. I am not totally wedded to this concept, and I may deviate from it a little or a lot – but I’m practicing a little deliberate authorship here :-)
OK – next thing to do is to review the shots I have taken so far to see if I already have images that meet my narrative intention. If so, great – if not, at least I will have narrowed down the remaining shots I need so I can be quite focused on any subsequent shooting opportunities. This much I learnt from the Hurn & Jay book… (1997).
David Campbell lecture https://soundcloud.com/mattjohnston/david-campbell(accessed 03/08/2016)
David Campbell article https://www.david-campbell.org/2010/11/18/photography-and-narrative/ (accessed 03/08/2016)
Hurn, D. and Jay, B.(1997) On Being a Photographer. USA: Lenswork