Narrative photography

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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".[1] Because photography captures single discreet moments, and narrative, as described by Jerome Bruner is irreducibly temporal, it might seem photography cannot actually represent narrative structure.[2] Susan Sontag made this objection in her book, On Photography:

“The ultimate wisdom of the photographed image is to say: ‘There is the surface.  Now think — or, rather, feel, intuit — what is beyond it.’  Strictly speaking, there is never any understanding in a photograph, but only an invitation to fantasy and speculation... It is doubtful that a photograph can help us understand anything.  A photograph of the Krupp [munitions] factory, as Brecht points out, tells us little about this institution.  The ‘reality’ of the world is not in its images, but in its functions.  Functioning takes place in time, and must be explained in time.  Only that which narrates can make us understand.”

The same objection could apply to painting, sculpture, mosaic, drawing — any  medium that presents a single image for appreciation and contemplation. However, it could be argued that photography and the traditional arts both tell stories and give accounts, with this difference:

In painting, the artist puts meaning into the picture.

In photography, the photographer invites us to get meaning out of the picture.

The Narrative Photography Competition in Portland, Oregon describes the concept of narrative photography: "The power of narrative, or story telling is at the foundation of much of photography. Photographers are creating complex and descriptive moments in time. Contemporary photographers are crafting and documenting new forms of a visual short story." [3]

Examples of narrative photography include the work of Gregory Crewdson, and Steve Giovinco,[4] both graduates of the Yale School of Art Department of Photography.


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  4. ^ "On the Edge of Somewhere | Fine Art Photography, Commissions, NYC Teaching Tutorials Steve Giovinco". Retrieved 2017-01-10.

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