David Campbell · Notes from soundcloud talk

David Campbell

Talk by David Campbell on documentary and Narrative. Notes from the talk.

  • Quoting Todd Papageorge: Based on Robert Cappers famous saying “if your pictures are not good enough you are not close enough”. Nowadays we might think more in terms of if our pictures are not good enough, we have not read enough and researched enough.
  • Narrative is the idea of story connected to the events of the time. The story unfolds over time.
  • The relationship is not automatic, it is shaped by us the photographer
  • The event is to what happens, it is narrated (Feldman). We don’t encounter events in the world, we create them via narration.
  • The french revolution was not that at the time, the event narration was created via time and people telling stories
  • Significant events come about via story telling over time. It is not the event of the time as it happens but what is brought out and how the story is told
  • Narratives are never fully fledged and constructed. We make them via our own involvement
  • We have to dispense with the idea of objectivity. We need to look at evidence but it would not lead us to objectivity. 
  • There are limits to certain narratives that can be told. We can’t make up anything
  • For example, you can’t tell a story of the death of someone as a comedy. The genre is not right for the job
  • Every narrative no matter how complete it might seem is based upon a selection of what is included and what is left out.
  • it’s impossible to think of a narrative that includes everything and limited. We have an angle. WE have to understand the limits. Maybe all narratives fail to be complete. Not all of the story can be included or relevant but this is part of the nature of the narrative.
  • we should reflect on our own process of story telling and narrative building.
  • story telling is powerful because it offers a sense of purpose and coherence even though life itself does not. Narratives make sense so that we can understand something.
  • Narrative therefore is imaginary because the complete picture is unattainable.
  • we desire stories that offer us a comprehensive account.
  • the reason why there are limits, its because things are located in context. The circumstances of an event, idea, location.
  • we are always trying to place things in context otherwise narrative makes no sense
  • in journalism there is a debate about the future of context? There was a doubt about the lack of context in the news. It is often missing!!
  • so can context be made available in other areas such as social media, etc.
  • what are traditional narrative structures? Starts with time, linear time. Beginning, middle, end. Film structures can start at the end and then unfold the story. There is also non linear narrative. Does not go in a linear fashion.
  • There is a character, or series of characters. Arc of the story of the story.
  • a narrative is always an account of an event with connected events, via time, space and people.
  • May involve drama, causality (reasons for the things happening).
  • Even if there is a non-linear narrative, there is still drama etc. But we should look at the dimensions.
  • important point, connection between individual and context. How can a person be connected to the story.
  • you tend to see stories between the person and the context, this shows most clearly what is going on
  • issues in the world do not have a disembodied relationship. However, there are cases for putting other things into the fore of the photo
  • exposition, conflict, resolution
  • we can locate these areas when we look at photos.
  • using all channels to deliver the story. It’s not just the way that they are produced but also the way that they are relayed (in photo terms, presented or exhibited).
  • WHAT IS THE STORY THAT WE REALLY WANT TO TELL? This is a key question in a project
  • what is the issue that motivates us to make these particular issues, who are the characters, what is the context? WE have to research a subject before we go to shoot it, because we won’t know what we are doing.
  • Power and responsibility: what work does the image do? Photographers are actors, they have responsibility.
  • Does photography lead to change? It would seem unlikely that photos in many cases lead to immediate change. Usually the narrative about an image grows up after. It’s not to say that images can’t have a tremendous effect on society.
  • however, Mark Beasdale’ images did lead to change in the Congo. But not the ending of war. The photo probably is not going to change world nor media in general.
  • multiply the channels of distribution of our work, really important
  • What is the responsibility that individual photographers have?
  • so one question that comes up is what are the limits of photography to make change?



Published by Truevisionphotography

I'm a student photographer studying through the OCA a UK based arts university. I'm in the foundation year of my studies and enjoying it immensely. I'm also a yoga teacher and co-founder of Bodhiyoga a buddhism based yoga teacher training program that runs in the UK and Spain each year. As a photographer I'm interested in all forms of fine art. I find the arts really important in my life. I love nature and aim to be in the outdoors as much as I can. Generally I think that all the different strands of my life are flowing to towards self development in the greatest sense of the term. The arts, buddhist practice yoga and meditation are all tools to that end. I feel committed to communication the these values in the world both through the visual arts as well as teaching.

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