Sunday, September 23, 2007
Is it a matter of shifting the emphasis or is narrative photography a totally different beast? At the moment they feel quite distinct to me. The narrative in "The Story of M," was admittedly beyond thin; thinner even than some of the slide shows I've worked on. That's, perhaps, why I'm becoming more convinced that narrative and non-narrative images are almost unrelated forms of expression. In keeping the narrative so thin, as much emphasis as possible is on the power of the visual elements to take control of the experience.
The photo above was not what I was looking for when I went to Sunset Ridge to shoot in the light of Thursday's sunrise. I'd shot Wednesday's sunet there, and I had a hunch (and still do) that there are some good images to be made there on the right morning. Unfortunately, I was tricked by the weather, and the closer I got to the ridge, the less hope there was that any of that early light would reach me through thickneing fog, and the view from the ridge, normally extending for miles, stopped half way down the corn row. There was no ridge shot to catch.
However, when I reviewed the images I did catch, this one grabbed me. By the time I shot it I had turned away from the ridge. Although the long lens usually flattons scenes, here the round forms almost balloon against each other and against the chosen edges of the frame. The graying effect of the fog adds to the sense of our distance from silos and the crowded space between. I liked the way the rhythm of doors on the barns give them a mediating effect between corn crib and silos. I liked the way the forms in the two lower corners drew the eye to them and added interest to the whole. However, I suspect the true subject of this photo is textures - most noticeably the transparent textures of the corn crib, but if one can view at sufficient scale, there is plenty to let ones senses explore on all of the surfaces.
This photo distinguishes itself to my eye on exclusively visual merits that, in fact, have nothing to do with farming or old barns. Although all the things pictured are recognizable, the thingness of them is unimportant to me, and it might almost be enjoyed as abstract, much as one enjoys the way sounds clothe images in a good line of poetry and, if truly integral, make feelings palpable.
But at my back I always hear,
Time's Wingéd chariot hurrying near.
Of course, poetry often (usually) has narrative. Even if there is no story, one is usually helped by knowing who is speaking and who that speaker addresses. Without narrative, a photo makes its point in a single instant. If it is to have narrative, it gains strength by having that narrative evident in the same flash, but that's a whole different kind of narrative.