Assignment 3: narrative planning

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:

  1. The anti-fracking movement started small, parochial and endearingly amateurish
  2. These aren’t your regular activists and are kind of learning ‘on the job’
  3. Some small-scale local activities take place to try to raise the profile of the issue
  4. Word gets around as speakers from Frack Free Ryedale started holding meetings in outlying towns and villages
  5. The scale of the potential problem becomes more apparent to people in the wider region
  6. More people from other areas of Yorkshires start to get mobilised
  7. A more diverse set of people get involved – families in particular
  8. Increasingly large groups from different towns start working together
  9. People started to look and act more united for the common cause
  10. 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

Further considerations

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).

Sources

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

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