Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Telling A Story

People like stories.   It starts early in life with "read me a story Dad" but it doesn't end as we grow older.   Storytelling is an important tradition here in East Tennessee with the National Story Telling Center in Jonesborough and the National Story Telling Festival.  You can even get a degree in storytelling at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City.

We usually think of storytelling as an oral tradition but paintings, drawings, and photographs can visually tell a story in a powerful way.    Ansel Adams said there are always two people in a photograph - the photographer and the viewer.   The photographer needs to think about how to capture an image in such a way that it can tell a compelling story to the viewer.

There is a wealth of good information available on how to tell a story with a photograph.   Just try googling "photography storytelling" .

I'm going to try to use some of my photographs from our trip to Iceland to tell the story of geographic isolation and the forces of nature that define the culture of Iceland.

Although Iceland is not a large country it is defined by large expanses of wilderness with few signs of people or buildings.  The landscape is made up of volcanic mountains and very few trees. The people who live outside the capital of Reykjav√≠k and the small towns along the coast have to deal with being isolated from their neighbors.  How can I use my photographs to tell the story of isolation in Iceland?


A wide panoramic photograph that shows a single building in a vast landscape can make the viewer feel the building stands alone in a vast frozen wilderness.   If I had made the photo of the building without the mountains or just the mountains without the building it would not tell the same story.



Above is a photo of June walking on the black sand beach before sunrise.  A small single figure in a simple uncluttered landscape can give the feeling that the person is alone or maybe even lost.


Including a person in a photo can give a sense of scale.  Without the tiny figure in the photo above the viewer may not understand how big the landscape is.   


The photo above also includes a couple objects that give a sense of scale.   The pack in the foreground and the van in the distance connected by a path through the snow tells a story of a difficult journey.   It was not difficult to exclude signs of civilization in this photo.  We were miles from anything.


Iceland today is very connected via the internet.  In the past, people living in Iceland had to travel long distances or find other ways to communicate.  This is an old short wave radio that people used to get news and music from around the world. 


Do these photos tell a story?  You'll have to decide for yourself.   Next time you're out taking photos think about how you can tell an interesting story that others will want to see.


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