APS Focus

In late 2016 I was invited to join the team of four people who take it in turns to write a piece for publication under the heading APS Focus in Australian Photography magazine. The purpose of this, and associated pages, is to promote the Australian Photographic Society. My first article, and accompanying image, was published in the January 2017 issue.

Here is the text of the article as submitted:

Telling the story

I commenced my learning journey as an enthusiast amateur photographer when given a Baby Brownie camera on my ninth birthday, over 65 years ago. The journey continues today. Along the way, I have learned about telling stories.

One of my strong interests is photographing events, whether they involve just a few or huge numbers of people. My grandchild’s football games, a demonstration, the opening of Australia’s new Parliament House, and the annual conventions of the Australian Photographic Society are just a few of the many events I have photographed.

The important thing is to capture as many aspects of the event as possible so as to tell the whole story and not just a part of it. Let me take the football game as an example. If you wish to capture the full story, then you clearly do not only focus on your own child or grandchild. You do not just focus on the team that you support. Indeed, you also need to capture sufficient off-field elements to complete the story.

So, if I photograph my grandson’s team playing in the Kanga Cup then I want to capture the on-field action by lots of players in as many of their games as possible, but also to photograph such things as the spectators, the match officials, the coaches, the warmup, the halftime pep talks, the team’s water bottles and clothes by the side of the field, signage identifying the tournament and the competing teams, and more.

Likewise, if I photograph an outdoor public arts festival, I need to get images of as many different elements of the event as I can. I need the performers getting ready and also performing. I need the spectators responding to what they are seeing and hearing. I need images of people viewing displays – and aspects of the displays themselves. If some spectators become willing, or unwilling, participants themselves then, hopefully, I am on the spot to capture that as well.

Why is gathering images of the whole event important? Well, it is all about storytelling. I learned many years ago that telling a story through our images is one of the most important aspects of all our photography. Sure you can tell a story in just a single image, but how much more can you share through a series of images that seek to capture an entire event?

Of course, the next question after capturing our storytelling images, whether they be of an event or something else, is what do we do with them? The ever growing popularity of photo books is one obvious answer. If you have gathered sufficient images what better way to tell the story than by putting them into a book in the appropriate sequence to enable everyone who later reads it to enjoy your story? I deliberately used the word read, rather than view, in the previous sentence because there is a great deal to be said for adding words to your images in your book. Not because, your images do not stand alone, but because story telling is about both words and images – and we all need the extra challenge!

When you have completed your photo book and a copy has pride of place on your coffee table, then all the visitors to your home will be able to enjoy the book, the photographs and the story. You could even enter a copy of the book in a growing number of competitions for photo books. The Australian Photographic Society introduced such a competition this year and delegates to its annual convention will enjoy looking at the entries.

Another option for your storytelling images is to put them into an audio-visual presentation – or slide show if you prefer that terminology. Again you will have something special to share with friends and family, your local photographic club, or anyone else who might be interested. The Australian Photographic Society has a group dedicated to the art of audio-visual making. It can provide assistance and, if you are interested, introduce you to the world of AV competitions.

Of course, you don’t need a specific event to photograph. You can create a story anywhere. On your next holiday you might set out to capture images that tell the story of your travels. You might just pay a visit to the main street of your town and gather photographs that tell the story of the people visiting the places on that street at that time. The possibilities are endless. So, let’s get out there and capture some stories.