Do You Use Photography to Tell Stories?

We’ve often heard from such renowned photography contest judges as those from National Geographic that they want their submitted photos to “tell a story,” but is photography really about storytelling? This is the topic photographer and filmmaker Ted Forbes explores in the video below:

Technical elements aside, most of us can agree that photography is many things to many different people. It could be anything from merely documenting products to creating a historic record to capturing precious moments for your own pleasure. Either way, a good image almost always evokes something in the viewer, but is that always the same as telling a story? Or is it rather like poetry, evoking thoughts, ideas, and feelings but containing no narrative content (unless captions are used)? Isn’t it true that in photography—unlike narrative story telling—the viewer is still mostly just an observer? We can guess about who and what the characters are and make up our own stories about the what’s going on in the photo, but we never really get to “know” the characters on any real level. It’s all still guesswork. Perhaps it would be better to say that the best photos are an invitation to create our own stories.

does a photo tell a story?

So what do you think? Is photography always storytelling? Just sometimes? Or never?

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One Comment

  1. Wendy says:

    Can’t say there’s much of a story in product photography or classic portraiture. On the other hand, there’s a lot of story in street photography and journalism. It’s “different horses for different courses.”

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