Context and Narrative

Before heading into the body of this unit I wanted to take the time and prepare with the recommended reading provided in the course handbook. I also wanted to write a piece on my thoughts on the subject before diving in to see how I may change or grow over the course.

having written previously about Context and Narrative in the Expressing Your Vision course, I look forward to the unit as I enjoy the discourse and interpretation around the intention of creative artwork. The deeper conversation being had between observer and creator, how the piece relates to the subject and and the viewers is so interesting as each can have their own understanding and interpretation depending on the context and narrative of the image but also of the cultural and generational influences on both.

Going into the section on Narrative I was expecting more along the lines of the serial creations, story across several images, but in reading more it was engaging to think of the narrative as also being the individual components within a single frame or combination of several frames into a single piece. Narrative photography is still very new to me as I have always previously been a hobbyist photographer who like most others thought more of the ‘point’ of the image rather than the whole.

Context, however, is and has been one of my stronger areas. Since starting out on the EYV course I always looked to form a set of images around a coherent goal. Whether that was the research and writing completed around homelessness and poverty or the more personal work of self portraits, I wanted to present images with a time frame, purpose, location and goal to communicate the point of what I produced, I guess more as a personal justification more than anything else. Over the course this did grow and develop as I read and learnt more about context in a photographic sense meant and how I could communicate that in different ways.

I have found it very useful and interesting to read again about the subjects of Context and Narrative, I’ve found having a few weeks locked away, due to the Covid-19 issues, has not helped with my drive to work and learn. But thankfully having this new unit there to engage with is helping. Especially when it comes to assessing others writing on subject as presented in my Context blog post.

From the discussion around the glorification of the device to the potential future of non human relationships, I find I find myself engaged evermore in these discussion around context and narrative.

The main points I am taking away at this moment are;

Context is a powerful tool for the photographer, we can emphasise an idea with a strong image attributed to the issue at hand. We can also destroy an idea with an image just as easily.

Images without context can be misappropriated to represent something other than the intended purpose and it is only with the knowledge of the artist that we can correctly infer their goals

Images misappropriated to time can also change perspectives drastically, the images of the Presidential Parades during the 2016 US elections are a prime example of allegedly misused images from a different period of time

With narrative comes an internal logic and context that can also change the intention of the image, the actions captured, the placement of objects, the people, the state of dress and even the exposure or grading of post processing or film stock all lends to the overall internal narrative.

Yet all these things can just as easily be constructed and curated to tell our own agenda. Even happenstance can change the narrative, taking ‘Mimic’ as an example, if those individuals could be shot with a long focal length to compress the image and force them together it captures the image we see but we are relying on the photographer for the final image and without being on ‘set’ we wouldn’t know that had been done. Our knowledge of photography allows us to see that it is not created that way, but it is only the choice of the photographer to tell us this is a created image that we would know its not candid, furthermore who outside of the academic would read into the image enough to discover that it is curated?

An issue experienced by many photographers over the years, not least Bresson and Fenton who are both said to pose their photos yet deny it.

As a subject I could keep writing round in circles endlessly, convincing myself more and more I’ve discovered something new and proclaim it to everyone but overall I look forward to reading more from others on this subject and translating these learnings into new assignment submissions.

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