Preparing For Assignment Three – A Narrative Photograph

Brief:- For this assignment you have two choices – To make a staged photograph, or to make a narrative sequence. The key to narrative photography is observation. Watch people, the way they interact, the way things happen, events unfold, and you’ll see that there are telling moments like a ‘stand off’ between a wilful child and it’s parents, or an awkward defiance when a ticket conductor on a train finds someone without a ticket. These may not seem like Hollywood situations, but the point is to find situations that are near to you. It may just beĀ  frozen pause during a meal with friends or the cyclist sitting by the road after coming off his bike. What you’re trying to recreate is a telling expressiveness, the quality that shows you’ve noticed how people behave and how their character is revealed in their actions, postures, facial expressions.

  • A staged photograph – A staged photograph is like a snapshot from a movie. It’s a ‘scene’, an event which you have constructed at the perfect moment as a still photograph. It can be a simple ‘moment’ like a glance between two strangers on the street (Jeff Wall’s Mimic, 1982) or an elaborate recreation of a dramatic event (Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind, (after Hokusai), 1993). It can start with a simple event, like the postman peeping through the letter box, an old lady jumping over a fence or someone tripping over a paving stone. But you should explore it conceptually and make it weightier in meaning by embellishing it, monumentalizing the event even though it is small. In this way you could turn the postman picture into an allegory about privacy, or the old lady picture an allegory that challenges perceptions about old age. Start by researching the work of Gregory Crewdson and Hannah Starkey.
  • A narrative sequence – a narrative sequence can be like a story board or comic strip that tells a story in a series of images. The story may be mysterious or humorous like Duane Michals Things are Queer (1973). It can be a fleeting moment or a monumental event. But there’s always the sense of time passing and an event unfolding. Research the sequences of Duane Michals online. Use your own life and work experiences as a source for ideas. Or use your dreams. Here are some key elements to think about: Event – Your aim here is to express a situation or event. Perhaps it’s something you’ve noticed, like someone sneezing in the high street or two people arguing. You don’t need to encapsulate war and peace. People – It will almost certainly involve people who will need to be rehearsed and directed like actors. But they can be themselves, they don’t need to pretend to be other people and they don’t need to be actors. Try to just let them be themselves and see what kind of images you get. If that doesn’t work, ask them to think about a memory which reflects the one you’re trying to portray. Setting – Every event has a setting. it happens somewhere. So think about places that would be accessible and telling. If you can, use environments that you have access to, like your workplace, your home or back garden. Props – Objects you use are important for setting the scene and expressing meaningful and narrative points about the situation.

I have very mixed feelings about this assignment. We are only required to complete one of the tasks, and I know that I can create a staged photograph. The idea has been with me, fermenting for sometime, and I know that I can give it a very good shot. It will involve a bankruptcy notice, a newspaper horse betting form guide, a mobile gambling app and a pint. On an outdoor pub bench and shot from the point of view of the person with the gambling problem. With a title of When the Fun Stops, Stop? I am going to complete this.

However, I am going to have to think of a way to also complete the narrative sequence. If I don’t then I know that I will be taking the easier softer option. It involves working with people, which right now is incredibly challenging for me, and is worse than usual. The brief is really clear that the idea doesn’t have to be fancy, it’s clearly more about staging and directing. The idea will come, ideas aren’t a problem for me – but the people are. I have already created a narrative sequence using birds, and also of me going out deliberately to get sun burned, I will post the birds sequence later in the week. It’s a strong sequence about spring and new life, but it didn’t involve staging. Me getting sunburned is wishy washy, yeah I will add it to my digital sketchbook, but that’s not a sequnce which I’m going any further.

I feel a bit down on myself right now because of my difficulties interacting with people. Although I haven’t been able to get in touch with my tutor, I know what she would say. She is aware of my poor mental health and would encourage me not to put myself at risk and that the staged photo is enough. However it isn’t enough for me.

 

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