How To Become a Storytelling Photographer

Natan Dvir is a photojournalist and a documentary artist who has a vast range of photographic experience for Polaris Images and other leading magazines. Born and raised in Israel, Natan moved to New York to pursue a Master’s degree in Fine Arts from the School of Visual Arts.

In this video he discusses various aspects of being a storytelling photographer and how one should visualize, conceptualize, plan and execute a documentary type photography project. Natan goes on to describe the aspect of becoming a storytelling photographer through various photos explaining how to capture the correct moment at the right time:

Natan initially began working for Tel Aviv in Israel with a small time photography gig. This evolved into a full-time photography hobby and soon enough he started working on freelancing contracts. His first big photography assignment was during the Burning Man festival in Nevada. The decision to quit the full-time computer job came for Natan when he attended the Visa Pour L’Image festival that happens in south of France. That festival as per Natan inspired him to a whole new world of news photography and documentary. He soon left his full-time job to take up photography and embark upon a whole new journey.

Natan took up commercial photography to begin with but was more fascinated by people and thus moved on to documentary photography. His first project the Burning Man festival was not a good success as per him. But his second project named Shirat Hayam is what kick started his aspirations. In the video he gives a brief background about Israel and the various settlements. Natan then walks through how he went about shooting photographs in refugee camps, various small villages and towns in Israel and describing the reasoning behind doing this photo shoot.

He provides a brief account of how he found families living by the beautiful beach, surrounded by concrete walls and immediately followed by another fence providing a sense of conflict. Natan decided to tell the story of Shirat Hayam and thus initiated the photography documentary project for the same. He provides various images of what he captured during this assignment.

storytelling photographer

For this Shirat Hayam project, Natan recollects the following aspects –

  • Experiencing a bipolar effect – going from extreme sadness to extreme joy
  • He selected 20 favorite pictures, printed 20 copies of 5×7 of each picture and bonded them together into 20 small booklets
  • Natan titled this booklet “Shirat Hayam Independence Memorial Day 2005”
  • And then he went on to meet the people and handed them these booklets describing his feelings and intentions of his task
  • Gifting them a present started a conversation and Natan went on to provide details about his project

As per Natan, the major point was to show respect and engage with these people. This enabled him to visit families, learn about their background, shoot various photos and this eventually turned into a major documentary. He used to even end up staying with these families. He describes these details to summarize what are the few aspects for any documentary photographer to invest into. The video describes many examples and stories giving aspiring photographers pointers and directions on how to develop storytelling photography.

As per Natan, there are many factors that go into deciding your aspirations to become a documentary or a storytelling photographer. A few of these aspects include –

  • Getting access – This can make or break your project. It’s similar to crossing barriers. Bureaucratic barriers, psychological barriers and knowing your way around.
  • Being creative – Sometimes shooting documentaries requires bringing your creative best to the forefront.
  • Choosing the right idea – This is critical to realize the full potential and value of your project. Investing into a wrong idea is of no use.
  • Researching – Hunting for existing documentaries, reading materials, relevant information and content in regards to an idea is useful to plan the project
  • Equipment – Choosing the right type of lens, fast cameras are a few essentials that needs to be taken care of to capture the precise moment.
  • Camera Settings – Reacting to the environment and appropriately choosing the right camera settings are imperative.
  • Engaging with people – While shooting people, its good to interact and get them into a comfort zone. This will help you put your photography imagination to work
  • Preserving reality – Its important to maintain the reality in the photos. Not involving it in heavy post processing helps you preserve the real idea behind the image

The video encompasses many images and concepts that Natan describes in detail to deliver the message across. He provides tips, suggestions and pointers on how to evolve as a documentary storytelling photographer. Talking from his real photography project experiences, Natan delivers insights into various challenges on how to become a storytelling photographer. Loaded with stories and real life examples, this video will walk you through the journey of Natan and his photography works!

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One response to “How To Become a Storytelling Photographer”

  1. Interesting article, along with some good tips.

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