Content Matters by Ray Ketcham
As photographers and storytellers it is our responsibility to find those split seconds in time that express something important and ask questions of our audience. Our ability to stop that moment for reflection and thought is unique to photography and as such, requires thinking about what we want to say when we pick up the camera. If our aim is to tell a story with our images, we must know what that story is before we communicate it. For others to connect to that story, there must be more than just a presentation of what we saw. Whatever we include, it must pull us in and make us care.
People are interested in stories and will see more in the images if they can find something in common with them. But we can also connect to a story if there is no common ground. If there are universal feelings and experiences in a specific story, it can have meaning to us beyond mere information. Images that show how you feel about a subject or a place are more of a statement than a story. Stories need to do more. They need to leave the audience with questions or relate to larger issues that affect all people rather than some selfish display of emotion or a statement of “I was here, saw this and felt this”.
A successful story draws us into the emotions and reasons why you felt what you did or why you were there to see what you shared with us. It asks us to be involved beyond the reasons that you, as the storyteller, care about something. If we are left with a universal lesson, moral or view, or if we gain a new understanding about something that is important to the audience as well as to the teller of the tale, then you have a story rather than a statement.
Documentaries, photo stories or photo essays can be about solutions as well as showing the world what needs to be repaired. A good tale has an anchor not only in today’s world but also in the past and in things that will have meaning in the future. This is what makes some novels, and the classics in particular, so timeless.
Content matters. Take a look at the world around you and see connections more than just single statements, ask questions about what matters, and share those stories. Finding a slice of life and sharing it with the world fosters understanding and creates a common bond.
That is the vision of all of us at Rear Curtain.
This essay is an excerpt from Issue 2. To learn more about storytelling and see some wonderful examples, please pick up a copy today.