The story I see unravelling behind a photograph
“Photography is the story I fail to put into words.”
Dustin Sparks, Landscape photographer.
Two-and-half years have passed since I received a cathartic gift — my first sophisticated camera, a Nikon 5600. Thoughts experienced on that day continue to swirl around like a storm inside my mind. Everything from the minor details of carefully unwrapping the mysterious box, to feeling apprehensive that I might break it, to the harsh realisation that taking a photo is a complex process, will stay fresh forever. The gift became one of those rare defining moments that can potentially change the direction of one’s life. In this instance, my life, and the lives of my family.
Accompanied by my camera, I’ve enjoyed great adventures to beautiful places that I otherwise would not have experienced. My photos have provided a method of documentation for recording the growth of my children and of my love for them; for this, I feel a deep sense of gratitude. When I capture emotion and everyday living in its purest form that is otherwise rarely noticed, I feel enlightened and sometimes dismayed by what I witness. A vision that, for some, may appear mundane and not worth the attention, for me, can be the catalyst for new and more significant discoveries.
I have felt delightfully ambushed by an abundance of new learning opportunities, both technical and more profound. Inspired by the humble photograph, writing, and trusty Nikon and Canon cameras, my life continues to evolve.
One photo with a wealth of possible interpretations
With photography, new insights are endless. Most recently, exploring the concept of a story or narrative underpinning a photo has been at the core of many of my photographic excursions. Seeking the fundamental reason behind why a particular picture is taken is a fascinating exercise. A photo is rarely taken simply for the sake of it; there’s usually a reason that may not be evident at the time. There is “something” about the subject that attracts the eye, captivates interest or poses questions. The quote, “a photo is worth a thousand words” is an evergreen for good reason. A photo is never just a photo; it comes with rich layers of context and abundance.
Looking through my photo collection, a story appears. These days, I’m more in-tune with what I’m looking at before I press the shutter release button. The story can be vague, provoking further interpretation on the viewer’s part. Or the photo may contain specific and recognisable details that project an obvious narrative. Recognising a story, vague or obvious, doesn’t matter. When I reflect on my journey with a camera, the fact that a story is emerging is enough because it shows the way for another step forward.
Photos and words with meaning
When posting shots to social media, I often research and find quotes that complement and reflect the underlying story that is speaking to me. The selected quotes are based on life as seen through my eyes, today or in the past. Delving into the quotes may give clues into the thoughts and questions unravelling deep within my mind at that particular moment. Other combinations may reflect my place in the world, something I continue to sort and explore.
This notion of storytelling is highly personal and contextual. My perspective of any given photo is relative to my opinions, time and place in life. Your view and mine may be entirely different, even conflicting, and that’s okay. The beauty of a photo is that there is no absolute right or wrong. Each view stems from our own unique experiences and perspectives.
For me, the notion of storytelling through photography is inarguable. The combination of photographic imagery in collaboration with words has given me a voice that I am comfortable with for others to hear. The picture and words twosome provides a safe medium through which I’m able to express my emotions, thoughts and observations.
A journey through pictures and words
My book, Resilience – A Year in Pictures is an example of my growing ability for self-expression through pictures and writing. When I take a moment to delve deeper and take a more considered look at both mediums, I see a bigger picture. My photos take me on an expedition, a journey back in time. They speak of the good and not so good experiences that are circulating within my mind. They tell a compelling and revealing story.
The pictures help me see different perspectives and possibilities and to translate and transform this widened vision into words. When I’m out with my camera, it’s for excellent reason. Maybe I need to escape and create a brand new story. Or maybe I’m hard at work making sense of this world in which we live. Whenever I feel the need, I reach for my camera, and set off to record the next part in a compelling story; my story.
I have included four very different images that speak to me in vastly different ways. I wonder what you see when taking a closer look?