Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Telling Stories With Images
I enjoyed the responses to my last post and probably will post similar questions in the future. A great big thank-you to all who participated in the conversation. I appreciate the time taken to share your stories and each comment left me with something interesting to contemplate.
The story elements that evolved in my mind as that recent image emerged were rather dark. There was a sense of being lost in a forlorn and harsh environment—a cold, brutal wind stung my eyes. Even though there seemed to be vast open spaces around me, I was hemmed in by something I couldn't see. Everytime I felt I was about to gain control over events, I was faced with a dark and unexpected turn. The mountains were a challenge that I somehow had to reach, for the only hope lay on the other side.
I am intrigued by the connection between the elements in a picture and the properties of the story that emerges. For me, it isn't a clean and linear line. It is as if the image whispers stories to life and the stories then play on me as I process the image. I have come to think of that interplay as a kind of a dance. The intellect is in charge, then yields to the heart. I know precisely where I am going and how to get there.... Then, I lose my way and stumble about taking cues from what? A dream, a memory?
When I stop molding an image—when I am ready to share it and say "This is it—for now", the result sometimes feels like something that is not really my own. There is no one or thing to blame, of course, but neither can I claim full credit—if, indeed, any is due. I led during parts of the process, but there were moments when it felt more like following. It was a process that took me to a discovery.
There is another aspect of images and communication that intrigues me. I have noticed that some people seem to think that if the image is made well enough it will say the same thing to all viewers. Wouldn't that turn the entire communication experience into a guessing game? "Guess what story I meant to convey with this image." That sounds like a really lame parlor game.
We all bring our unique life experience to every contemporary experience. We, each, arrive at any given moment with our particular baggage and that baggage will affect what we read into the story before us. Just as you and I would visit the same spot, but return home with different photographs, shown the same image we will read different stories featuring our particular characters and playing off our personal history.
The responses to my invitation for your stories gave me a good taste of what I was craving—some conversation about personal emotional responses to an image. What more could I have asked? The photo here was taken on that same stretch of highway as the last picture. This one calls to my mind very different stories, even though the setting is similar and the characters in the image certainly look similar. I hope this one suggests stories that speak to you.