Manten|Photography | Why I Combine Photography With Stories

Why I Combine Photography With Stories

March 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Creating New Perspectives Through The Lens of Photographic Stories


I am a storyteller. I have always been.
From an early age, I enjoyed making up and telling stories to my sister, cousins, nephews, nieces, and later my children. I loved it when I drew them into my fantasy worlds, seeing their eyes growing big with anticipation of what would happen next. And even now, that they are older, I manage to come up with stories and explanations that are unbelievable, but not to them.
Sometimes people ask me why I use storytelling techniques to share my fine art images with the public. It could be far easier to just have a simple portfolio website, or offer my images for purchase on a straightforward art selling website like FineArtAmerica. The question made me think, and go back to the reason why I create photographic images at all.
When I started photographing, years ago, I literally took pictures of everything. I experimented with different points of view, creating images of landscapes and still lifes, photographing scale models, and even tried portrait and model photography with my sister as the model (or maybe better: victim). I literally made hundreds of slides with my first camera, an Agfa Iso Rapid 1-C, which created small, square format slides. And I burned through quite some film with my first slr, a Ricoh. Later when going digital I did a lot of wildlife and nature photography.
And although I think the images were not bad at all, I felt something was missing…

Light Bulb Moment

If you are like me, you like and look for the unexpected, for the deeper meaning or reasons behind what you see.
Call me slow, but it has not been since quite recently, when I looked into starting this blog, that the light bulb went on and that I realized what was missing: I need to combine the images I create with stories.
It was a real eye-opener when I stumbled on this quote from Anais Nin"The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say".
I realized that I not just want to share the obvious, but what we usually are unable to see. Or to change the quote above a bit: My role as a photographer is not to share what we all can see, but what we are unable to see. 
I am very visually oriented. In my office at work I have a huge whiteboard that I use to draw pictures and diagrams to explain my thoughts and ideas to others, and to myself. Images and visualization are key to my thinking process. There are many ways to share my vision: one way is through images, another way is through words. I combine both to create a stronger message. Images enhance and strengthen the story, and vice-versa.
When starting this blog, and having discovered the Anais Nin quote, I realized what I needed to do with my images to create something that resonates with my feelings: use stories to share what I see in these images and to invite the viewer to see the same, to be on the same journey of exploration with me. Using images and words to help me to understand, appreciate, and share the world as it presents itself to me.
You see a car, for example, but I see the family driver who has a long history with the car and the family. Who remembers big family events as part of his history with the car.
You see a parking garage, but I see the attendant, who is always there, being helpful, and providing service. Day in, day out, and always friendly.
You see a field of flowers. I see and feel the crisp early spring wind, which reminds me that these flowers are very vulnerable and will be gone within a couple of days.

The Story Formats

The best way for me to tell these stories, and to communicate my thoughts and feelings about my images, is through Haiku, PicTales, and Photo Essays.
Haiku and PicTales are short emotional connections to images: they represent my immediate thoughts and feelings reflecting on the images.
Essays are the results of long-term projects, more in-depth explorations of the world around me, and my feelings and thoughts about this world. They usually are also more image-focused than word-focused.
These different story formats help me to understand what I see, looking beyond the obvious, and to share these new perspectives with my audience. To share my vision of the world, to teach people, to entertain, to make people think. When we look at things from a different perspective we learn not only about the object or topic, but also about ourselves. Although different in nature, each of these formats allows me to express my observations about the natural and built environments, and the importance and impact of human interaction with their environments and with each other; helping me to understand why we are as we are.
Looking only at the images, some can be called landscape, abstract, wildlife, or street photography. For me, however, the subject is only the trigger for the story. And although each image has its merit on its own, the image complemented with the story makes it for me what it is: a reflection of my deepest thoughts.
The main story can be told with words (Haiku, PicTales) or mostly with pictures (Essays). In both instances, it is the combination that makes my stories unique.
I am a storyteller. I have always been.

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