Story in photographs

I’m obviously thinking a lot about this, as every photo I frame up I am thinking about the importance or irrelevance of story. Making a photo seems deceptively easy. In fact, it’s not just pressing the shutter – even if the camera is set on automatic – because there are many decisions to be made before the camera is even lifted. Before I have even walked to the place where I intend to take pictures, I have to think about the format, the camera, the available light. I have to decide if there is actually anything in my head that might want to come out. This might, or might not, be affected by what I did last time I was out with the camera. I read a bit about composition, I test the camera out at home when I’m not pressured into clicking in haste, but when it comes to recording something interesting, it is much more difficult than at first it seems.

So, story. Have I even decided what I think it is in a photo? I think maybe narrative elements can be quite loose, but defining this has limits otherwise every unimportant detail can be termed an element of the story. The picture above has rudimentary elements – you might wonder who they are, what brought them to feed the birds, where is this happening? I don’t think so. Story needs to be more than this. It needs to urge, maybe even compel you to know what’s happening. I think it has to have more inherent drama. Something that leads the eye and forces your brain to infer what is happening from what is presented. It has to suggest a denouement or crisis or dramatic finale or something is taking place or about to take place or has taken place and there are the effects right in front of you. There is no doubt that I have not taken a photo like this yet. Not one.

This is the state of my thoughts on finding story in images, in particular photographs. I have no idea if I am anywhere close yet and, of course, this doesn’t help me in actually getting a photo like that. What would make the photo above have story? Maybe if the child had been running up to the pigeons and they were flying away because of that, I might have counted that. Maybe. Otherwise, I need to continue looking for photos.

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