Photography is all about telling stories “every picture tells a story don’t it?” I’m such a firm believer in that statement, when I had a wedding photography business a few years back, I named it “Storyteller Weddings”. When I stopped shooting weddings the storytelling never stopped, only the stories and locations changed.
I’m also dedicated to still images. Video can tell a powerful story, but there is something about a still image that can be even more powerful. The viewer can take the time to look at the image and explore the statement. It lets the viewer create a story in the mind’s eye. A still image can ask a question, or answer it, or both. A photo editor for a publication will always ask themselves the question, does the image tell the story? Or in the case of a multi-image story, does the photo help tell the story effectively?
We have all heard the statement, man, that is a powerful image. What makes it powerful? The story it tells, yes, but how does the image tell that story? By that I mean how was the image captured to tell a powerful story? Most times it is just digging deep into the bag of tricks. Camera angle, time of day, camera settings all play a part, but most importantly it is simply having the goal of telling a story with photographic still images.
Some images are pretty straight forward, as in the above photo. I saw the Siri, hands and clothing wet in the cold morning, she is tired, yet, she will continue working. I framed the image and shot. Simple, but it says something about Siri, her dedication, her hard work. In the image of a man resting on his hand tractor I wanted to make it clear what was happening, the time of day is important to the statement. The image below is more complicated. The story is a middle-aged woman lifting heavy bundles of harvested rice. Time of day was important for lighting, and rain clouds helped me out. The camera angle was important to show the power of the woman, I was almost lying flat in the field to get the angle I wanted. Finally, the timing was critical for her expression and how she is lifting the heavy of bundles of rice to her shoulder to carry them.
Below is an image from the 2013 anti-coup protests in Bangkok. Every photojournalist faces a situation where there is not any real action to document, there is relative calm, but the story still needs to be told. A soldier on the front line doing his job in the heat of the day is one of the images I used to tell the story of non violent protests and the reaction of the Thai army.
When I’m shooting, I always keep in mind the situation. I ask myself “what is going on?”, How can I tell the story? Then I keep working until I’m satisfied I have images that do tell the story I’m trying to tell. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes practice and work. There are going to be those moments, those “decisive moments” but it usually takes patience and dedication.
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