Day at the beach? Family? Baby’s first steps? Missing fathers? Same sex marriages? Sisters? Point & Shoot Cameras?

Continuing on with some more thoughts based on the Gary Winogrand video, I’m wondering if a picture is really worth a thousand words. Gary Windogrand said:

The fact that photographs — they’re mute, they don’t have any narrative ability at all. You know what something looks like, but you don’t know what’s happening, you don’t know whether the hat’s being held or is it being put on her head or taken off her head. From the photograph, you don’t know that. A piece of time and space is well described. But not what is happening.

In one respect, I would say that yes, a picture is worth a thousand words, but only in describing how something looks. I would have to agree that you can get little or no story from it. QBP rather solidified this point for me in her comment yesterday where she said:

For me, it depends upon what is presented. I think a photo can be as impactful, if not more, than someone’s writing. I was recently reading a blog where the author had written a series about a farmer who had to close his farm due to the corporate competition. He could no longer keep up. Although the writing was quite impactful, I found myself turning away and skipping over some of the many photos he’d taken to document the event. It was powerful, the sadness and emptiness captured in those photos. Painful.

For me, that ability to hit an emotional nerve with either the reader of the word or the viewer of the photo makes the difference.
–QBP

From what I can infer, she read the article, or at least part of it, then went to the photos. By the simple act of reading the article, or even the title of the article, she had context, was able to gather feelings about the article or situation, then looked at the photographs, which just added additional impact, allowing her to add her own narrative and feelings about the subject. If the pictures of the farmer were not included in the article, I would say that the article would have much less impact, but certainly more impact than photos alone; however, I would say that if the photos were in a spread by themselves, well, they would have just been photos of some farmer and no one would have a clue as to what they meant. Therefore, no narrative ability whatsoever.

I could go back to my photos of the poetry reading. Without the context of the poetry reading, the photos might hold up on their own, but as what? As I write this, I’m hit by another thought. This is probably why I’m not so attracted to photo-only blogs. There’s nothing to go along with the photograph to help me along, to frame it, I suppose. I want context. I can appreciate a pretty picture, or perhaps a disturbing one, as much as the next guy or gal, but give me some words with it and it takes it to a new level!

In the end, I guess that I’d have to agree with Winogrand 100% that photos have no narrative ability by themselves. Probably some of you would disagree. I’d like to hear your take on it. Can a photo stand entirely on its own as a narrative piece? I’m not talking about can a single photo evoke an emotion, I know that it can, but can it tell the entire story? Should it be able to?

Moved more by words
One of those weeks!

13 Comments

LEAVE A COMMENT