Ideas & Research

“Narrative photography is the idea that photographs can be used to tell a story. Allen Feldman stated that “the event is not what happens. The event is that which can be narrated”. In this case, the medium is photography.”

I started of my project by gathering a real understanding of what narrative photography actually is and all the different routes I can take with developing my work. Compared to documentary photography, narrative aims more towards telling the audience a story and is often taken from sources like books.

Early on I found an article on the internet that helped me gain a real understanding of what is really involved in narrative photography and what makes it different to the other types of photography that exist. Written in 2010 by David Campbell, the piece goes through the typical conventions you would expect to find in a series of narrative work. I have put a link below as this website was one that I found extremely useful at the beginning of my project and research process and really helped me begin to gather all of my ideas.

Here is the link to the site that I am discussing, this particular piece is really cool and helpful as it really dissects all the information and gives information about what conventions a normal narrative which then makes the audience think about all the possible ideas and outcomes this project may have.

Below are some of the examples of the kind of routes that you can possibly take when completing a narrative project.

For this project, the Internet will be the most useful source and will be where a large majority of where the research takes place. Due to how massive photograph is in the world and social media these days, from searching any words on a site like Facebook, Google or Twitter would result in be able to see thousands of photographs at the click of a button. However other sources of research also need to be considered before coming up with a final idea for my project, the university has a huge library that feature thousands of books that may be helpful in some way to my work. Despite the fact that using books may be seen as a more traditional method, when it comes to research and finding examples of work, social media gives so many options and things to think about. Not only can you post photographs on Instagram and flickr all based on a subject with the use of a hashtag, categorising your work and giving you the ability to express your thoughts and the work you produce. On top of this, social media websites create groups and societies where you have the ability to present your work to others and discuss. It’s safe to say that because social media is such a huge part of our lives that what we consider as the media industry is completely different to what it use to be even ten yeas ago.

The idea of a narrative piece is to show the story of something in particular, for example this is be shown through the work of a book, song, film, even an event that has happened. So obviously when receiving a brief where the amount of ideas you can have are so open, it can sometimes be a problem to stick with just one idea and develop it.

The pictures below are to give you an understanding of the pure mass of photographs that a person has access to once they search for a particular subject on the internet site like Google or a social media website like Facebook, Flickr or Instagram.

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In addition to the two examples of other practitioners work, I have found a really cool and useful website that shows off loads of different types of narrative photography and all sorts of ways of way narrative work can be presented. – here is the link to the website, but I would also like to show some screenshot as I want to talk about some of the work that features but also my opinion on it, I think that this stage of research at this point in my project is where I’m learning what path I want to talk from what I take an interest in.

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The website itself focuses on several different narrative series all completed by famous photographers. The one above is one of my favourite and I feel although it’s style is something that I would like to attempt for my narrative piece. The piece itself is called “A Life Told with ID Photos” by Ali Mobasser. I really like the whole time lapse style of this work and the idea of present an something or somebody through a selection of photographs taken throughout there lives. Showing the “life story of Afsaneh Mobasser, born in Iran as a young girl of privilege, forced into exile, enduring unexpected journeys – all told through official government ID photos of her from age 7 to age 55.” One thing that I particularly like about this narrative is the fact that is shows this individuals story just through the simple photographs that every person has on a form of ID.

Another photograph on this website that I really like is one by a gentlemen called Michael Somoroff and his piece called “Absence of Subject”. The practitioner has put his own twist on the work of August Sander, a german documentary photographer. Michael Somoroff has placed his edited version of the photograph next to the original and as you can see below, he has removed the main subject of the photograph, the model.

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August Sander’s original photograph is an extremely famous one and is part of his series documenting the German people in the early 1900’s, so when you’re so use to seeing that photograph but then come across an edited version it’s slightly odd. In his work, Michael Somoroff believes he has removed the “essential element” by removing the subject and simply leaving the background as it was.

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Next up is probably one of my favourite photographs that I have come across since the research process began. I mentioned before that I was keen on creating a narrative that involved a time scale but I want to make it on something that is important to me and that I am interested in. The photograph above features the time scale of a women getting old, with a relatively young women on the far left getting progressionally ageing, representing the women of a family. What I really like about this photograph is how in the photographs, all models are wearing the same clothes and are being photographs in the same environment, I think that this gives the piece a very personal impact, almost makes you think of someone in your family who could relate to that very photograph, living in the same place and having the same daily routine for a number of years. The photograph is taken by Nina Roeder and the piece is called “Mutters Schuhe” and I have taken a real liking to this particular photograph.

After looking at several sources and really getting an idea of the kind of work I take an interest in, I decided that I like the idea of using time as a factor in my work and showing the changes that are made over a period of time, more often than not this may be used to show someones life, like in the photograph below.


Produced in 2013 by Julien Nespoulet, this piece in my opinion is amazing. The work using everyday objects that we as the audience would stereotypically associate with a particular age group, an example of this would be the photograph featuring a babies dummy, something that we would associate with a young baby, then comparing that to the photograph that features a box of pills and a glass of water, this representing the life that an older individual would live. Through using these objects, the photograph is able to keep the same background environment of just simply using the edge of a table, would again represents home and the whole process of growing up in a place. This photograph has determined my decision to use time in my project but I’m not sure about using it in order to create a piece showing how we grow up, but showing how something developed, like an event.

Now that I am very underway with my research, I want to talk about the ideas that I have started to develop and I’ve been thinking about how that I have had some inspiration from research other peoples work. As you can tell from my work on the previous notes, I want my narrative to feature a sense of time management throughout it and right now i’m just at the stage of deciding how to put all my ideas together to gather my final ideas so I can get on with developing that. This then got me thinking about how you could incorporate time with a narrative piece, over a year perhaps, maybe even a number of years?

One of my first ideas was the idea of using members of a family to create a narrative simpler to the one I analysed earlier in my research, however I want to do something different, something new, and that is when I came up with my next idea that turned out to be my final idea.

Over the last couple of month, the American elections have been taking place to try and find the next U.S president. This year makes the end of Barack Obamas eight years in charge of the American people. This is obviously something that is massive in America but news coverage gives reports and social medias allows just about everybody in the world to get an understanding about the current situation in the U.S.

I want to do a narrative series based on Barack Obama and the changes he made in America during his eight years in charge, I want to create the type of narrative photographs that you wouldn’t expect to see when you think about a narrative. I want to think about all the positive things that Barack Obama has done for America over his eight years and I want to celebrate that in my world.


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