Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Story in Pictures

In January I did a series of posts on speechmaking as storytelling
here, here, and here. I've also examined the interconnectedness of songs both in inspiration, as writing soundtracks, and, of course, as stories.

What I haven't really delved into are pictures. In hindsight this is surprising as I'm such a visual person. You can see post-it reminder notes all over my desk, diagrams when I'm trying to explain workflow, and I'm often discussing ideas with our designers of what visuals I think might work well when I submit my writing assignments. Heck, from scribbling story ideas on scraps of paper and which, subsequently get shoved into the pockets of my purse, to (*nerd alert*) my strange obsession with organizations charts, I am and always have been a visual person. Even my husband hands off the camera on our vacations so I can get the shot.

So, at long last, we visit pictures as stories. As the adage goes, "A picture is worth a thousand words." And it's true. So often one snapshot can communicate so much that it would require mass amounts of text to discuss all the layers and even then we might do it a disservice because pictures can have a nuance that words often can't. Though literature can certainly have multiple interpretations, pictures I feel might even supersede words because in photography so much of the story may not be known.

This allows us to become authors of sorts, filling in the blanks, taking what subtle features or facial expressions or body language exists and weaving it into a life of its own. Is someone reaching out for a gentle touch or is the other person moving away? In a photo this may seem like a subtle difference but in the storyline and our understanding of these characters and their relationship, it's paramount.

What spurred all of this is a photo I recently saw at last week's Vancouver riot. Perhaps you've seen it?

I couldn't help but be reminded of these other iconic images of lovers embracing:

Of course the later are of a soldier returning from war and paramours connecting in the streets of Paris. The Vancouver riot without commentary looks like two people thankful to have found one another in the mess and violence, who are thankful they're both okay, who perhaps were fearful of what was taking place.

The storyline, of course, if you read it in accompaniment with this image is that the riot began after Vancouver lost to the Bruins in hockey. Somehow this background degrades the sense of urgency we sense in the picture and feels so far from the stories we began to weave about what might have been going on in those streets, in those heads, between those lovers.

Sometimes a snapshot can convey a whole story both real and imagined, a sense of illusion of sorts. That's what this Vancouver picture is for me. It's like a dream sequence in a story. It's beautiful and haunting and full of meaning at first glance but when compared against reality, is a bit of an illusion because, really, what's romantic about poor sportsmanship and tearing through the streets over hockey? Nothing. But this picture, as a stand alone, is lovely and there seems to be so much more narrative going on between these two.

Do you agree?

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