What’s the Story?

 It is said that the camera never lies.

In fact it can tell a cruel version of the truth all too clearly – think of all those images you will have seen of politicians, celebrities or other prominent people papped at their worst: asleep inappropriately, yawning, having a bad hair day, eating a bacon sandwich very badly, or worse.

The camera may not lie, but the processing can and often does. Faces are re-touched, body shape adjusted to improve a profile. And we do it too: removing a TV aerial, an errant telegraph pole and sometimes much more. We clone and crop things out.

A single image may possess more than one meaning, or may have inherent ambiguity, depending on a number of factors – the processing, the pre-conceptions of our viewers, their mood, that image’s association with other images taken on the same shoot, and the personal vision of the individual photographer. The meanings we attach to an image may be very different to what the original photographer intended.

Two by Two. Margate Sea Front

Two by Two. Margate Sea Front

And, that brings me to the heart of today’s topic. What’s the Story?

You go somewhere new, you capture images there. What’s in your mind as you walk about? What is the thinking behind the images you are taking? Perhaps you are just open-minded, shooting whatever comes to mind, or ensuring you photograph the key features. Are you seeking balance, or taking images to a pre-determined agenda? In short – what is the story you will be telling through the images you capture?

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Shoes in the window

We will all be very familiar with illustrated documentary articles about places, towns or cities, environmental or topical issues etc. Many of those will be commissioned. How does that process work? I’m assuming that an editorial team will have an article in mind: they determine its scope, the approach, the context, and finally the ‘angle’ or ‘agenda’ to be pursued. The article will tell a story, a particular story. A photographer will be appointed to work to that agenda. And he will shoot accordingly: seeking out images that conform to the agenda, ignoring those that don’t.

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Beach walkers

The camera never lies, but the images it produces collectively can create a totally false, or one-sided impression of a place or an issue. Images can be employed purely to bolster, add substance to, or give credence to a chosen angle or agenda.

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Station steps

I recently visited Margate, a seaside town in SE England. Margate is a place where it is so easy to shoot images that give a false impression of this town that is a little down at heel and undergoing a process of re-vitalization. The Turner Contemporary gallery is at the forefront of Margate’s regeneration (click the link to see my post about it). More importantly read a post published today over on LensScaper (click here to view) that endeavours to look at Margate in a balanced way while presenting two very distinct visual stories about this resort.

On the terrace of Turner Contemporary

On the terrace of Turner Contemporary

It occurs to me that we – who choose to place our images in the public domain – need to be conscious of the need sometimes to present balanced views of places we visit and photograph. We have no way of knowing who will find our images and what they may think of them.

All the images in this post were taken in Margate – but what stories are they telling?

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