I want to start off this series with a question that was brought up in my advanced photography class this past Fall semester: “what is narrative?”
Without going into a full-fledged lecture series, I will answer with a simplified version of what I believe narrative to be, and how it differs from story.
Narrative can be linear, cyclical, or instant, in my perception of the term. Generally, in the “western” world (being Europe and modern & post-modern North America), narrative (and story) are seen strictly as a linear progression of events, one after the other, and follows the classic exposition-rising action-climax-falling action-resolution format, to some degree. However, when considering any sense of storytelling, in this case, narrative storytelling, one cannot pigeon-hole into this one form of narrative.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to do much research into the idea of cyclical narrative, often seen in eastern cultures of Eurasia. This is, however, an area I anticipate doing much research into.
The third primary version of narrative I consider, probably more than any other form, is the idea of instant narrative. Think of this as a renaissance painting, or, in a more contemporary and relevant idea, a headline photograph. It’s a narrative told in an instant. Everything is happening at once. there is no beginning, there is no end, it’s all just happening. It’s how we perceive our life. We go about our day filled with these “instant narratives,” but we connect them all into a linear narrative, because that is how we have been socially and culturally conditioned to do so.
Often times my friends will hear me say “time isn’t real.”
I do believe that.
I have a strong interest in the idea of “instant narratives,” in which I explored in my project titled “Moth,” which depicts fifteen distinct narratives that are all told with one individual photograph, all of them connected by differing threads. Some people have told me there is a sense of chronology to them, and others see the project as a self-portrait. Since this isn’t an artist statement about the project, I won’t get into that.
I consider the headlining images to news stories to be “instant narratives.” In tandem with the headline itself, the headline images draw in the reader. The reader will be caught initially by the photograph, and if that photograph tells them any sense of story, it will connect with their next destination — the headline — in perfect synergy. The headline image is the photojournalist’s goal with every assignment. Depending on current news, if a photojournalist gets an incredibly compelling image with what was originally thought to be a boring story, suddenly that story could be seen on the front page because of the imagery paired with it.
During the process of this blog series, these will be the ideas that will come up and potentially change as I continue studying this idea of storytelling photography.