Narrative in Photography
With a power to evade mental defenses, change attitudes, or engage emotions, narratives affect people in such powerful and increasingly well-studied ways. The narrative continues to fascinate theorists and critics because it is so closely intertwined with our identity and the way we understand ourselves and the world around us. Increasingly, we are overrun with the notion of narrative photography, an idea that photographs can be used to tell a story. Some would say that the power of narrative is in the essence of all photography, while others would argue that photography is strictly a non-narrative medium for its irreducible temporality. Yet, when discussing this subject, it is very important to define the very notion of a narrative.
Defining the Narrative
Storytelling and listening to stories are part of human instincts and human nature. Beginning with the oral tradition and in forms of myths, legends, fables, anecdotes, or ballads, man has been telling stories and listening to them ever since he learned to speak. These were told and retold and passed down from generation to generation as a valuable knowledge and wisdom. When we talk about any form of storytelling, the term narrative always shows up. The Free Dictionary defines a narrative as “a story or account of events, experiences, or the like”. This definition implies that terms narrative and story are interchangeable, but is it really so? The story is usually defined as the chronological sequence of events. The event itself is not a story, it is a moment trapped in time. Even though the story always has a narrative, there are narratives that are not stories. This shows the elusive quality of the term.
According to the American psychologist Jerome Bruner, narrative’s relationship with time and causality is especially important. He pointed out that the narrative is irreducibly durative and that there is no narrative without a timeline. Yet, to think about narrative, however, involves more than reflecting on how a series of events become connected. We also need to think about how something is constituted as an event in the first place. As Allen Feldman has stated “the event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated”, meaning that a narrative constructs the very events it connects. Narratives are not found objects and are constructed by participants and observers, actors and analysts. Recognizing narrative as constructions means that we cannot escape the clash of interpretations. One of the narrative Merriam-Webster Dictionary is that it is “the representation in art of an event or story, or an example of such a representation”. This means that a narrative can be about the story – it creates connections to story and storytelling but does not in and of itself have to be a story. It can be the way the story is told.
The Narrative Photography
As something non-verbal in nature, can photography tell a story or create a narrative? The story is a sequence of events unfolding over time, but a photograph is a single moment frozen in time removed from the timeline. Put this way, photography as a medium is almost completely incapable of creating a story. Yet, in her essay Pictorial Narrativity, Wendy Steiner states that while it’s unusual for a single image to tell a story, it has been common throughout the history of arts for an image to imply a certain story or remind the viewer of a story he or she already knows. In this way, the photograph can depict a moment within a larger story, and the viewer is able to draw upon the story he or she already knows. Thus, this kind of photograph can be considered narrative because it recalls a story through association. This is called a staged-narrative photography where images are staged purposefully with the idea of narrative in mind. Gregory Crewdson is a photographer famous for using this kind of approach.
The Professor and Political Scientist David Campell says that “In telling visual stories about the world, photography is narrating the world”, outlining that narrative is something far larger than photography. Yet, the narrative in photography is often connected to the context. The narrative of Dorothea Lange‘s famous photo Migrant Mother becomes apparent only if the viewer is aware that is was captured during the Great Depression.
In the 18th century thesis Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry, Gotthold Lessing argued that although painting could not communicate narrative in the sense of telling a story, it could imply drama by aspiring to capture the “pregnant moment”. In photography, this idea thrives as the “decisive moment” first introduced by Henri Cartier-Bresson and his followers. Yet, classics of the decisive moment such as Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare can often be more of an enigma than a story to be read. This often goes for documentary photography. Thus, the viewer is invited to invent a narrative of their own from the elements of the image that becomes a blank canvas for interpretation. In the case of the Alfred Eisteinstaedt‘s famous photograph of a sailor kissing a woman at Times Square after the end of the World War II, it turned out that the narrative general public constructed couldn’t be more further from the truth.
Collages, Sequences and Photo Essays
The narrative without a story can be made through a photo collage. Even though each photo represents a separate event, theirjuxtaposition can create a narrative relationship in the viewer’s mind. Each viewer can develop their own story by connecting these images in their mind or having a certain collage of emotions. Thus, these images have a narrative since there is a tendency towards a story, even though the actual story is not present. Even though a story requires a sequence of events, the narrative simply requires an implication or reference to story events without those events actually happening.  David Hockney broke conventions and challenged the single image, constructing a narrative with multiple images through a collage or a photo montage. He first started making composite images of Polaroid photographs arranged in a rectangular grid, and soon after he switched to regular 35-millimetre prints to create photo collages, physically compiling a complete photograph from a series of individually photographed details.
Narrative’s demand for a sequence of events can be satisfied with a sequence of photographs. The 19th century photographer Eadweard Muybridge created many sequence photographs in order to study the motion that create a literal and clear narrative. The photographer Duane Michals has created a variety of photo-series arranged in a sequence conveying ideas about love, emotion, philosophy, life and death. One of his most famous pieces is Paradise Regained that shows a recognizable narrative structure of progression. In some other pieces like Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty, he avoids using the standards narrative structure, creating works that are somewhat ambiguous.
Narrative can also be created though a photo essay or a photobook. Even though these are rarely read as narratives in the sense of an ordered sequence unfolding over time, photobooks convey an overall concept, theme or idea behind the selection of images that represents a narrative. Through editing and sequencing photographs for a book, the final group of images and the way they are presented can clearly point at a story, a feeling, or an idea. The overall narrative would be the way this all comes together. The approach can vary and connections between images can range from being very specific to quite vague. The famous 18-years series The July Project by photographer Darcy Padilla documents the life and death of one woman. Through thousands of pictures, as well as letters, journal entries, logs of phone conversations and newspaper cuttings, it tracks the blighted life of Julie Baird, capturing in miniature the plight of America’s permanent poor. This approach is quite different from, for example, Robert Frank’s The Americans that dissected the American image and creates a narrative that is more ambiguous and elusive.
Photographs as Clues
It might not be too much of a stretch to say that all photographs allude to some sort of story, however vague it might actually be. While narratives are powerful, how we interpret them and how they make us feel changes dramatically with our point of view, our existing preconceptions, and our emotional state when we experience them. Photographs aren’t really entities of their own. Instead, they point at something else, whether that something else is a story, a feeling, an idea, or simply its maker’s expression to affirm her or his presence. Photography can create a narrative, but the most powerful role of photography is its ability to complementnarratives rather than express them and frame stories rather than tell them.
Campbell, D. (2010) Photography and narrative: What is involved in telling a story?, David Campbell
Sundberg, I. (2011) To Plot or Not to Plot. Ingrid Sundberg
Steiner, W. Narrative Across Media: The Languages of Storytelling, Pictorial Narrativity. Illus, 2004
Anonymous, Photography and Narrative, CPH Mag [October 28, 2016]
Meyer, M. Storytelling Photography Considered Harmful, Photo Mark [October 28, 2016]
PHOTOGRAPHER NICK UT: THE NAPALM GIRL 1972
On June 8, 1972, AP Photographer Nick Ut captured what would become a Pulitzer Prize winning photo depicting children fleeing from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War. In the center of the frame running towards the camera was a naked 9-year-old girl, Phan Thị Kim Phúc, also known as 'Napalm Girl.' In 1973, AP Photographer Nick Ut won the Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for "The Terror of War", his photograph featuring Phan Thị Kim Phúc. The image was unprecedented at the time for the Associated Press news wire, due to full frontal nudity depicted of the bombing victims. Although somewhat controversial, Ut’s fellow Associated Press colleagues, Hal Buell and Horst Faas deemed the photograph news-worthy and its value overrode the nudity in the image and it was widely distributed on the AP newswire. The photograph is thought to be one of the most memorable photographs of the 20th century.
Kim Phúc and her family were residents of the village of Trang Bang, South Vietnam. On June 8, 1972, South Vietnamese planes dropped a napalm bomb on Trang Bang, which had been attacked and occupied by North Vietnamese forces. Kim Phúc joined a group of civilians and South Vietnamese soldiers who were fleeing from the Caodai Temple to the safety of South Vietnamese-held positions. A South Vietnamese Air Force pilot mistook the group for enemy soldiers and diverted to attack. The bombing killed two of Kim Phúc's cousins and two other villagers. Kim Phúc was badly burned and tore off her burning clothes. Associated Pressphotographer Nick Ut's photograph of Kim Phúc running naked amid other fleeing villagers, South Vietnamese soldiers and press photographers became one of the most haunting images of the Vietnam War. In an interview many years later, she recalled she was yelling, Nóng quá, nóng quá ("too hot, too hot") in the picture. New York Times editors were at first hesitant to consider the photo for publication because of the nudity, but eventually approved it. A cropped version of the photo—with the press photographers to the right removed—was featured on the front page of The New York Times the next day. It later earned a Pulitzer Prize and was chosen as the World Press Photo of the Year for 1973.
After snapping the photograph, Ut took Kim Phúc and the other injured children to Barsky Hospital in Saigon, where it was determined that her burns were so severe that she probably would not survive. After a 14-month hospital stay and 17 surgical procedures including skin transplantations, however, she was able to return home. A number of the early operations were performed by Finnish plastic surgeon Aarne Rintala (1926–2014).But it was only after treatment at a renowned special clinic in Ludwigshafen, Germany, in 1982, that Kim Phuc was able to properly move again. Ut continued to visit Kim Phúc until he was evacuated during the fall of Saigon
Audio tapes of President Richard Nixon, in conversation with his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman in 1972, reveal that Nixon mused "I'm wondering if that was fixed" after seeing the photograph. After the release of this tape, Út commented, "Even though it has become one of the most memorable images of the twentieth century, President Nixon once doubted the authenticity of my photograph when he saw it in the papers on 12 June 1972.... The picture for me and unquestionably for many others could not have been more real. The photo was as authentic as the Vietnam War itself. The horror of the Vietnam War recorded by me did not have to be fixed. That terrified little girl is still alive today and has become an eloquent testimony to the authenticity of that photo. That moment thirty years ago will be one Kim Phúc and I will never forget. It has ultimately changed both our lives."
Less publicized is film shot by British television cameraman Alan Downes for the British ITN news service and his Vietnamese counterpart Le Phuc Dinh who was working for the American television network NBC, which shows the events just before and after the photograph was taken (see image on right). In the top-left frame, a man stands and appears to take photographs as a passing airplane drops bombs. A group of children, Kim Phúc among them, run away in fear. After a few seconds, she encounters the reporters dressed in military fatigues, including Christopher Wain who gave her water (top-right frame) and poured some over her burns. As she turns sideways, the severity of the burns on her arm and back can be seen (bottom-left frame). A crying woman runs in the opposite direction holding her badly burned child (bottom-right frame). Sections of the film shot were included in Hearts and Minds, the 1974 Academy Award-winning documentary about the Vietnam War directed by Peter Davis
It’s the photo of a terrified child running naked down a country road, her body literally burning from the napalm bombs dropped on her village just moments before Ut captured the iconic image.
“That photograph illustrated dramatically what had become a regular occurrence in Vietnam over the years — napalm on distant villages, civilians killed and scared by the war, pictures we’d rarely had in the past,” said Peter Arnett, a distinguished network news war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner himself. “This picture revealed the kind of details that were an integral part of what the war had been about, which made it so significant and important to be published.”
Ut was only 21 when he took that photo on June 8, 1972, then set his camera aside to rush 9-year-old Kim Phuc to a hospital, where doctors saved her life. He would go on to take literally tens of thousands more over the next 44 years, including images of practically every A-list celebrity who walked a Hollywood red carpet or entered a courtroom on the wrong side of the law.“Every star who has trouble, they will see me,” jokes the friendly 65-year-old photographer who, although his thick, dark hair has greyed over the years, retains both a boyish charm and irrepressible enthusiasm for his work.
On a recent morning in a conference room of the AP’s Los Angeles bureau, Ut clicks through a portfolio showing a few of his most famous images.
There’s one of a sobbing Robert Blake, the actor’s head on a courtroom table moments after he was acquitted of killing his wife. In another, Michael Jackson is dancing on an SUV outside a courtroom where he would be acquitted of child molestation. Perhaps the most ironic of all, of a tearful Paris Hilton headed to jail for driving violations, was taken on June 8, 2007, the 35th anniversary of the day he took the “Napalm Girl” picture.
Warren Beatty once called Ut aside at a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony to spend 30 minutes talking about the “Napalm Girl” photo. After learning he was the one who took it, actress Joan Collins opened a bottle of champagne for Ut during a shoot at her home. It was a much friendlier reaction, he says, than the one he got when he previously photographed her heading into a courtroom to settle an acrimonious divorce.
“That picture changed my life. It changed Kim’s life,” he says of the pair’s chance meeting in a dusty Vietnamese village called Trang Bang. He’d just finished photographing four planes flying low to drop the napalm that would set Phuc’s village ablaze when he saw a terrified group of men, women and children running for their lives from a pagoda.
After getting that perfectly framed photo, he set aside his camera, gave the badly burned girl water, poured more on her wounds, then loaded her and others into his AP van to take them to a hospital. When doctors refused to admit her, saying she was too badly burned to be saved, he angrily flashed his press pass. The next day, he told them, pictures of her would be displayed all over the world, along with an explanation of how the hospital refused to help.
“I cried when I saw her running,” Ut once told an AP reporter. “If I don’t help her — if something happened and she died — I think I’d kill myself after that.”
Now a 53-year-old wife and mother of two who lives in Canada, Kim Phuc remains Ut’s close friend.
But her photo, dramatic as it was, represented only a small slice of the horror Ut saw during those war years.
As he flips through photos of villages destroyed, dead bodies piled everywhere and parents grieving over dead children, Ut tells how he came to be a combat photographer.
The 11th of 12 children, he grew up idolizing one of his older brothers, Huynh Thanh My, an actor whose good looks seemed to have him destined for movie stardom until the Vietnam War got in the way. Huynh was hired by the AP and was on assignment in 1965 when he and a group of soldiers he was with were overrun by Viet Cong rebels who killed everyone.
At his brother’s funeral, Ut approached the late Horst Faas, photo editor for AP’s Saigon bureau, to ask for a job. But Faas, a two-time Pulitzer winner, turned him down cold. He didn’t want the Huynh family losing another son.
After weeks of Ut’s pestering, Faas finally relented, hiring him on Jan. 1, 1966, but giving the 15-year-old strict orders: Under no circumstances was he to carry his camera into a war zone.
So Ut spent the next couple of years working in the darkroom and shooting feature photos around Saigon until one January morning in 1968 when the war came to him.
“I remember Nick coming in later that morning very excited and saying, ‘The Viet Cong are fighting near my house. I have pictures of Vietnamese troops attacking them, great pictures,” Arnett, who worked for the AP then, recalled in a recent interview. From that day forward, 17-year-old Huynh Cong Ut was a combat photographer. Over the coming years he would be wounded four times and have a rocket come so close to his head that it literally parted his hair. His closest friend in the Saigon bureau, noted photographer Henri Huet, died in 1971 after volunteering to take the weary Ut’s place on an assignment during which the helicopter he was in was shot down.
It was Huet, Ut says, who gave him his nickname, Nick, after others in the bureau had trouble getting his given name straight.
“That’s why I keep the name Nick Ut. In Henri’s honour,” he says in a voice momentarily thick with emotion.
When Saigon fell to the rebels in 1975, two years after the U.S. military pulled out, Ut had to flee Vietnam like thousands of others. After a brief stay in a California refugee camp, the AP put him to work in its Tokyo bureau.
It was there he met his wife, Hong Huynh, another Vietnamese ex-pat. She even hailed from the same neighbourhood as Ut, but the two had never met. They moved to Los Angeles in 1977 when Ut began the Hollywood chapter of his photo career. They have two grown children and two grandchildren, ages 8 and 10.
He plans to spend retirement helping take care of those grandchildren and, oh yes, taking more pictures.
“I’ll take pictures until I die,” laughs the diminutive photographer who is instantly recognizable around Los Angeles for his 5-foot-3-inch frame and his ear-to-ear grin. “My camera is like my doctor, my medicine.
Weegee (Arthur Felig) 1899-1968) Photojournalism
There is clearly discomfort in the seeming contradiction between the obvious timelessness and sheer visual appeal of many of his images and their creation as timely, on-the-spot news shots of the vagaries and extremes of human behavior, with the circumstances of creation leading some critics to demand that news pictures must always be contextualized-at the same time admitting that the best news pictures are those which need the least explanation. Further, even the damaged condition of many of Weegee's extant photographs has not mediated against their inclusion in museum exhibitions and this speaks to the persistence of his images in the mind's eye rather than to some bizarre perversity on the part of curators.
Born Usher (Arthur) Fellig in Zloczew, Austria (now Poland) in 1899, Weegee emigrated to America with his family and grew up in a tenement on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Around 1923, he joined Acme Newspictures (which later became United Press International Photos) as a darkroom technician, occasionally filling in as a news photographer. Later, around 1935, armed with his Speed Graphic camera and working out of Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan, he began his career as a freelance press photographer. His images of dead gangsters and his own flamboyant personality established his reputation as New York's resident "crime photographer," a reputation and persona he nurtured to the point of ultimately stamping the backs of his pictures, "Credit Photo by Weegee the Famous." His territory expanded from the Bowery to Greenwich Village to the activities of the uptown social elite and his clients included such periodicals as Life, Look and Vogue as well as the "legitimate" newspapers, the daily tabloids and everything in between. Among the most supportive of his clients was PM Daily, founded in 1940.
Weegee worked with them until 1945, when he began a short stint as a society photographer for Vogue. From around 1947 to 1951, Weegee worked periodically in Hollywood, serving as a technical consultant and playing cameo parts in several motion pictures. Between 1948 and 1967, he made several films himself, both in black and white and in color, using varying locales, from New York to Hollywood to Europe. He also served as an advisor on special effects to Stanley Kubrick for Kubrick's now classic 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb. Weegee's popular book about New York, Naked City, published in 1945, inspired the Hollywood film noir, The Naked City, although he was apparently not directly involved in the production. He authored a number of publications following Naked City, including Weegee's People (1946), Naked Hollywood (1953) and Weegee by Weegee, An Autobiography (1961), all of which, rather than being taken entirely literally, need to be read as part of Weegee's lively attempt to create and re-create his own self-image.
The dramatic close-ups, brightly-lit shots of spectators, cropping variants and tonal contrasts of Weegee's early work derive from his extraordinary flair for telling a story with directness and immediacy over and above the general stylistic conventions demanded by the dictates of newspaper production. In contrast to most other news photographers, he consistently and intentionally blurred the dividing line between being a participant in the action and spectator to it. His use of visual puns and his wise-cracking captions for many of his images evidence his intrusion into his subject matter, an arch commingling of his life and his art. Although he had some interest in exploiting the technical aspects of his medium throughout his career, his most involved technical experimentation came in the early- to mid-fifties when he began devoting himself almost full time to producing optical distortions. To create these images, which have often been criticized rather harshly, he used everything from mirrors to kaleidoscopes and specially designed lenses and filters, presaging the interest in manipulated photography that would develop two decades later during the seventies. Weegee's distortions ranged from rather Daumier-like, reportorial caricatures to kaleidoscopic pinwheels with subjects as varied as helicopters and London street minstrels. Their existence has led many of Weegee's admirers to postulate a "good" Weegee and a "bad" Weegee, the latter being the press photographer gone astray in attempting to turn himself into an artist. Although never given significant attention by museums during his lifetime, Weegee did come to the attention of both Beaumont Newhall and Edward Steichen at The Museum of Modern Art, where he was included in such shows as Action Photography (1943) and 50 Photographs by 50 Photographers (1948). The Photo League in New York gave him a one-person exhibition as early as 1941, Weegee: Murder Is My Business. In 1960 and 1962, he had one-person shows at the Photokino in Cologne, Germany, and following his death in 1968, his photographs were shown at the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona (1975) and the International Center of Photography in New York City (1977), both of which maintain important archives of his work. The photographer Diane Arbus did the preliminary research for The Museum of Modern Art's 1973 exhibition From the Picture Press that included several Weegee images, one of which was used for the cover and end papers of the show's catalogue. A decade ago, in 1984, Weegee's work was once again the subject of a one-person exhibition, at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. (Diana L. Johnson, Brown University)
Arthur Fellig, the news photographer cum photojournalist whose images of murder, mayhem and other dramatic events appeared regularly in the New York press during the thirties and forties. Although stories differ as to how he came to use the name "Weegee," the most colorful is based upon his claiming with varying degrees of seriousness that his "psychic powers" enabled him to be first at the scene of crimes, fires, accidents and the like. The name was derived from a phonetic spelling of Ouija, the popular fortune-telling game. Weegee's career spanned four decades and both coasts as well as Europe, although he is most celebrated for his extraordinary photographs of New York and New York characters.
A New York character himself who achieved an albeit limited celebrity status, Weegee was largely (despite any disclaimers) the inspiration for the 1992 film The Public Eye, starring Joe Pesci. His influence as a photographer, direct or indirect, can be traced in the work of such important artistic heirs as Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Larry Clark, Garry Winogrand, Les Krims and Eugene Richards. Always defying categorization, Weegee has been variously described: as a populist social critic; as a street photographer who came "as close to a photojournalist as any photographer ever got to be;"1 as a "primitive pioneer of a new formalism;" and as a mass media photographer, a working professional and master of the spectacle, who must "be rescued from 'museumization'" because "museumization" attempts to convert the raw power and historical importance of his reality-of his photographs as carriers of significant fact-into art.
Paul Strand (1890–1976)
The American artist Paul Strand had a long and productive career with the camera. His pictorialist studies of the 1910s, followed by the coolly seductive machine photographs of the 1920s, like the contemporary work of Alfred Stieglitzand Edward Weston, helped define the canon of early American modernism and set a premium on the elegant print. Experimenting with Charles Sheeler
Strand then pushed further in describing the movement of the city in the short film Manhatta (1920). In the 1930s, he became seriously involved with documentary film and, from the 1940s until the end of his life, he was committed to making photographic books of the highest quality. After 1950, when he relocated to France, landscape, architecture, and portraiture (the traditional humanist genres) continued to inspire Strand to embody the spirit of his subjects in the very materials of the photographic print. The high regard for his mature work suggests that he succeeded in his goals, and that his standards of excellence and his constancy of subject answered very human needs in a century of radical change.
Strand was introduced to photography as a high school student at New York City’s Ethical Culture School. His first photography teacher, Lewis Hine, instilled in Strand a deep sense of commitment to the social betterment of humankind. In 1907, the school’s camera club took a field trip to Alfred Stieglitz’s Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession at 291 Fifth Avenue, where they saw an exhibition of photographs by members of the Photo-Secession, including Gertrude Käsebier, Edward J. Steichen Clarence H. White, Frederick H. Evans, and Joseph Turner Keiley. For Strand it was a defining moment: he decided that day to become a photographer. During the next seven years he applied himself to this task, shadowing in his development that of
Pictorialists a generation older, and consciously emulating Steichen and White.
In early 1915, his mentor Stieglitz criticized the graphic softness of Strand’s photographs and over the next two years he dramatically changed his technique and made extraordinary photographs on three principal themes: movement in the city, abstractions, and street portraits. During the 1910s, New York thronged with pedestrians, carriages, and automobiles, and the streets became the unavoidable symbol of flux, change, and modernity. Photographers such as Alvin Langdon Coburn and Karl Struss and many painters, including John Marin, pursued the “great hastening metropolis” as a vital subject. Being a very deliberate artist, however, Strand was not initially taken with the “rush and go” but instead structured his images on relatively slow movements, usually of a single person, as is seen in From the El (1915;
49.55.221) Soon he increased the complexity and upped the tempo of his compositions with the multiple rhythms of midtown and downtown crowds.
Following Stieglitz’s exhibitions of avant-garde European art at 291 and the Armory Show of 1913, several other New York galleries began to show modern European painting. Thus by 1916, Strand had repeatedly immersed himself in the new artistic idioms, especially as represented by
Cézanne and Picasso. Upon arriving at the summer cottage his family rented every year at Twin Lakes, Connecticut, he set about learning “how you build a picture, what a picture consists of, how shapes are related to each other, how spaces are filled, how the whole thing must have a kind of unity.” Scavenging some crockery and fruit from the cottage kitchen, Strand made arrangements on the porch, learning how to create movement and depth in the compact universe that became the picture. First tilting the bowls, then the rocking chair and table, and then further rotating his photograph ninety degrees, Strand gradually abandoned the recognizable and comfortable for a space that is largely incomprehensible, a pattern of tones of extraordinary authority and dynamic formal coherence. These stunning photographs, including Abstraction, Twin Lakes, Connecticut (1916; 1987.1100.10)were the first significant abstractions intentionally made with a camera.
For a long time, Strand had wanted to make “portraits of people such as you see in the New York parks and places, sitting around, without their being conscious of being photographed. … I felt that one could get a quality of being through the fact that the person did not know he was being photographed … [and I wanted to capture] these people within an environment which they themselves had chosen to be in, or were in anyway.” Strand set out for Five Points, the heart of the immigrant slums on the Lower East Side, with his camera rigged with a false lens to distract attention. Approaching a potential subject, Strand turned ninety degrees away and aimed the false lens in the direction he was facing. The real lens, on an extended bellows, stuck out under his arm toward the person, whom Strand could see by looking into his lens hood sideways or sneaking a glance over his shoulder. The clumsiness of the operation made it exceedingly difficult and “nerve-racking,” but it allowed Strand to capture his subject unaware.
Many of the people Strand photographed were classic New York types of the period: unshaven toughs, red-nosed Irish washerwomen, Jewish patriarchs, aging Europeans, blind peddlers (33.43.334) and sandwich men. Like Lewis Hine, Strand was collecting the poignant evidence of poverty among the cultures that crowded the metropolis. Treating the human condition in the modern urban context, Strand’s photographs are a subversive alternative to the studio portrait of glamour and power. A new kind of portrait akin to a social terrain, they are, as Sanford Schwartz put it, “cityscapes that have faces for subjects.”
Even if she could see, the woman in Paul Strand’s pioneering image might not have known she was being photographed. Strand wanted to capture people as they were, not as they projected themselves to be, and so when documenting immigrants on New York City’s Lower East Side, he used a false lens that allowed him to shoot in one direction even as his large camera was pointed in another. The result feels spontaneous and honest, a radical departure from the era’s formal portraits of people in stilted poses. Strand’s photograph of the blind woman, who he said was selling newspapers on the street, is candid, with the woman’s face turned away from the camera. But Strand’s work did more than offer an unflinching look at a moment when the nation was being reshaped by a surge of immigrants. By depicting subjects without their knowledge—or consent—and using their images to promote social awareness, Strand helped pave the way for an entirely new form of documentary art: street photography.
Photographer as Storyteller
For this task students are required to conduct a research on a “ Master Of Photography” and present a report on their approach to Photography as a storytelling medium
Select a Photographer you like and then Google their name to find of more about them
Copy and paste information you gain including images of their work
You are then required to complete a PowerPoint presentation based on your chosen Master of Photography
Written Essay/ report
Power point presentation that includes 10-15 screens- transitions – and sound
Your report should include
Information about when the Photographer was born
How your subject became interested in Photography
Photography genre or style
Any significant developments they made
What kind of Photography did they specialise in
Narrative through their Photographs
Photographs of their work.
List of possible Photographers
Ansel Adams Edward Weston Man Ray David Strick Andre Kertesz Cecil Beaton Patrick Lichfield Robert Cappa Roger Phillips Harry Bakkers Michael Boys Bill Brandt H. Cartier-Bresson John Hedgecoe Eugene Smith Dave Waterman David Hamilton Takuya Tsukahara James Henkel Leo MasonOzaki Kakuji John Hillbom Derek Gould Louis Daguerre Edward Muybridge Brian Duff Mervyn Rees Giuseppe Balla Shabbir Dossaji Deborah Turbeville Sacha Sarah Moon Irina Ionesco Caroline Arber Karin Szekessy Terry Phelan John Lamb Bruce Postle Kazumi Kurigami Peter MagubaneAnnie Liebowicz David Bailey Rennie Ellis Tony Ray-Jones Alice Springs Marcia Resnick Shirley Beljon Christa Peters Jo Alison Feiler Linda Benedict-Jones Frank Hurley Diane Arbus Dean Brow Wynn Bullock Imogen Cunningham Lewis Hine Jacob Riis Aaron Siskind Paul Strand Alfred Stieglitz Jerry Uelsmann Weegee Minor White Walker Evans
Due date : 26th July