351MC Photography and Narrative – Session Four

On Wednesday 22nd October 2014, I attended a #Phonar session from 9am until 1pm. We started off this session by discussing with our lecturer Jonathan Worth about what we have taken from the #Phonar module so far as well as what we thought about last weeks task (“Spoken Narrative”). We then split ourselves into two groups in order to share our response to the week’s task, which was accompanied by feedback and a reflection on the session. Following this, to end the day, we then listened to a talk by David Campbell on “Narrative, Power and Responsibility” and took notes. All of the notes from this #Phonar session can be found below:


A Paradigm Shift is a fundamental change in thinking about a particular practice

F/64 group – when photography came away for pictorialism (blurry – like that of a painting) and became more high depth of field and detailed.

Increase in supply affects the value (supply and demand theory) – The digital age has allowed more photographs to be supplied by a number of amateur photographers: does this affect the value of the photographs?

We are witnessing the death of the single point perspective narrative – stories now are much more mediated

Books imposed the linear narrative

Non-linear – transmedia experience; you can’t experience the fictional universe until you

If you printed off all the Instagram photos uploaded in a year, how far would they reach?- https://photoworld.com/photos-on-the-web/


Spoken Narrative” (Last Weeks Task):

Personal Thoughts:

  • Difficult to sift through the personal experiences to find one that I am willing to share
  • Felt the same sense of vulnerability that subjects within the photograph can often feel – can maybe feel belittled depending on how the person tells the story
  • To allow someone to know our story, we have to gain a certain level of trust
  • However, some stories are so buried that there is no way that we will be able to force it out

My Spoken Narrative Feedback:

  • Aaron Sehmar – “I think that you conveyed your story narratively and it allowed the listener to fully understand your situation. It sounded like you really thought about what you were going to say and I think that you wrote it extremely well! You can tell that you like to write!
  • Katherine Alcock – “The way you told the story kept us engaged until the end, you didn’t reveal all straight away. There were also some very comical moments that you delivered well.
  • Katy Flanagan“The way you told the story kept the listener engaged. It was descriptive and well written with a great attention to detail. The closing line of how the lake district had ‘eaten you up’ was a great way to end the narrative leaving it light hearted.”
  • Oliver Wood “I really enjoyed the attention to detail and use of descriptive language and also how it was nice and light hearted.”
  • Charli-Nicole Collins – “The story was built up to a climax, the detail it was told in kept me engaged. With the build up I thought the end was going to be serious which turned into a comical ending where the lake district ate you up! I can definitely tell you love writing! It was written perfectly!
  •  General
    • Very well written
    • Liked the fact that the story was dramatized and almost came from a childlike perspective
    • Gripping in the sense that the suspense kept the audiences attention throughout the piece


Reflection on Other People’s Spoken Narrative Task:

Joining the smaller group in the other room because I was shy to recite my story to the whole group, I was interested to hear the stories that other people had created.

The majority of us had actually written our stories out, allowing us to embrace our writing skills to create more creative and dramatized pieces of writing. There was one example (which I obviously won’t name because of the personal aspect of the task), where this particular person wrote what I would consider to be a prose poem. Very well written, this delicate piece of writing represented and anchored the delicateness of the personal story that was told.

Those that decided to speak their stories, without notes our cues, were able to engage more with the emotion of the story that they were telling. This was because they weren’t being distracted by something that they had written, and were therefore simply able to recall the story/event as it came to them, telling only what their mind thought was important and necessary.

Within the group, however, I soon found that we were all really good at engaging the interest of the viewer. This was either through our ability to create suspense, or through the relatable aspects within our story.

One point that we did come up with as a group is that it would be interesting to see how our stories changed if we swapped the way we told them, i.e. if the scripted individuals spoke it from memory and vice versa.


Professor David Campbell on Narrative, Power and Responsibility Lecture:

  • Narrative is central to photography even though it comes from literature and other forms of story-telling
  • What can the image do in the capacity for change?
  • We don’t really have a very good understanding between the image and the world
  • Tod Papergeorge’s take on Robert Capa’s famous quote – What is important now is that if your pictures aren’t good enough your not reading enough
  • There is a necessity of the understanding of the context before the picture is actually being made and recorded
  • It’s essential because it directs our attention to the narrative
  • These questions of narrative and context are as fundamental as anything in preparing and producing photographic work
  • The work that is most powerful and sustains itself over time is the work that understands it’s own context
  • The whole idea of narrative for me is the idea behind the relationship of story to the idea of an event or an issue – there is no automatic relationship between these things
  • Allen Feldman – “The event is not what happens, the event is that which can be narrated” – something becomes understood as an event through the narration itself
  • Different people, your subjects, or people around your subjects will offer their own stories and there will be massive differences in the story they will have to offer
  • Narrative operates at a whole series of different levels
  • Narrative is a series of practices of mediation and representation
  • The process of construction, mediation, representation, is about including some things and excluding other things – it is impossible to think about a narrative that includes everything
  • You are going to have an angle and a perspective
  • It’s part of the nature of narrative that although they look pretty comprehensive, they will be constructed from something
  • Storytelling is really powerful because it offers a sense of coherence and purpose even though life itself doesn’t have that
  • The power of narrative is that it’s imaginary
  • We desire stories
  • Everything is located in a series of contexts
  • There’s something in the structure of news itself that works against context – e.g. timeliness
  • Most narrative tends to be linear, it has this notion of beginning, middle, and end
  • Conventional structures are always undone and re-done
  • Whichever narrative structure you use, it will have a sense of temporality, it will have a sense of time involved in it
  • Time, characters, and arc are fundamental in the way conventional narratives are understood
  • The most important thing is the relationship between individuals and context within a story – how can an individual embody or reveal the larger issue that is relevant to the story?
  • Photographers that “put a face on the issue” are showing the relationship between individuals and context
  • The point of a narrative is to convey information
  • What is the story that you really want to tell? – You have to have a sense before you undertake the project; it will change and alter
  • More attention to narrative and context will help out with the notions of power and responsibility and the impact of the work itself


What to Take Away from Today’s Lecture:

  • Information and meaning don’t come bundled together – it’s your responsibility to interpret it
  • Our narrative is the culmination and interpretation of other people’s personal stories
  • There are many ways of telling a story – including literally and metaphorically
  • Power rests with us, the photographers, and it is our responsibility to contextualize the story we want to tell


Storify of Session: