Exercise – Evidence of action

Showing a narrative through a sequence of images can tell the story that the photographer has in mind, leading the audience through the narrative from start to finish, showing plenty of detail and leaving no room for misunderstanding.

However, a sequence is not always possible or desirable. We may want the viewer to do some of the work.

Fig.01 - Evidence of action.  Canon 5d2. ISO125, 50mm, -2/3ev, f/2.5, 1/50
Fig.01 – Evidence of action.
Canon 5d2. ISO125, 50mm, -2/3ev, f/2.5, 1/50

As an example, fig.01 shows evidence of action and that something has happened. The deer is dead and we assume from the information provided that it has been hit by a vehicle (as it’s on the road) and probably the red van in the picture. Some of this information is true and we can see evidence of it (the deer is definitely dead). But other information has been assumed because of the visual clues we are presented with (it wasn’t hit by my red van). We need to be aware of this difference and concious of what we read into an image.

However, as photographers, we can use this effect in our favour. Photographic art often asks the viewer to create their own narrative in an image and this can range from the obvious to the bafflingly conceptual. Occasionally, a photograph can do both at the same time and appeal to different viewers who read entirely different stories into the same image.

In advertising, photography is rarely used simply to show only a pleasing view of the product. Often, a story needs to be told in one image and the reasons why the consumer would want to buy the product need to be communicated. Symbolism will be used as a visual short-hand and in this exercise we are asked to think of some examples.

We are offered the symbolism used by insurance companies. Their product cannot be photographed literally and so instead we see shields, umbrellas, fortifications and cupped hands, all implying protection and security.

There is often a lack of subtlety in such symbolism with growth shown by acorns and oak trees for example; powerful people who we are encouraged to aspire to be being are photographed from below, with warm lighting; people who don’t use ‘the product’ are usually overweight, might have bad skin and generally dress in grey/brown and the sun shines on those that do; and freshness is implied by bright white and billowing net curtains, even if there is a pig farm just out of shot.


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