Can a single image transmit a narrative?
photograph is only a minute fragment of an experience, but quite a precise,
detailed, and telling fragment. And although it might only provide little
clues, the photographer is telling us that they are very important clues.”- Aaron
single image is a collection of clues and
triggers carefully placed to convey a message or narrative. In everyday life, we are constantly decoding and translating
clues that we then perceive as a story. This is intentional when it comes to
photography due to the fact that photographers
only have a single frame image to project meaning and emotion onto the viewer.
A film has the ability to tell a narrative through many frames but a single
image only has one so the photographer
must possess the ability to consciously leave
a trail of triggers that our subconscious can then translate into time. By this
I mean, the events that led up to the image
and the events that will take place after. This then gives us a sense of time
and perspective which is a crucial element to a narrative. We, humans, are curious beings so having to create a narrative from
nothing but a few clues is more rewarding and being shown the narrative.
In this photograph of the Bangladesh
factory collapse captured by Taslima Akhter,
we can piece together in our heads what has happened in the image. It is clear
that there has been a disaster and the building the people were in has collapsed
on top of a couple, killing them in the process. Although this is just one image
we can still see imagine what has happened in the events leading up to collapse.
The photographer wanted to capture the emotion that she must have felt at that
moment so to project this emotion onto the viewer she would need to take a few
factors into account.
The use of depth of field in this image is simple
but strong as having the cloth out of focus closer to the camera and the subject
in the background with the rubble in focus it give the perspective of how the two people are deep inside the debris from
the building. If there was no depth of field and the whole image was in focus it
would not have the same effect because the depth of field is like a trigger
which in a way gives us the feeling of the depth that the people submerged in.
The choice of composition plays a strong part
in telling the story of an image. This is because the photographer chooses what
we see and what we don’t. This could either make or break the emotional
connection of the image. An example of this is if the subjects in the image were
close to the lens of the camera and we as the viewer couldn’t see the extent of
the debris then it would be harder to image what has actually happened in the
image. I believe that Taslima Akhter used the rule of the thirds to good effect, to
me it sends a strong message.
When I see an image that has been captured with
the intention to tell a story I instantly see it as a freeze frame of a bigger picture
that I can play in my head. Taslima Akhter’s photograph gives the image of emergency
services searching the rubble for bodies and survivors. Although this is not in
the frame and may be happening behind the
camera we are able to imagine this because the way the image has been captured.
Another example of a photograph which
told a story to the world is by Vietnamese photographer Nick Ut. This image, captured
in 1972 was one that shook the world. It brought the reality of the war in Vietnam
to the rest of the world and it did this through a single image narrative.
was given the name napalm girl which has a child whose name is Phan Thi Kim
Phuc, running away from the devastation and horrors of the Vietnamese war. This
image is one of the most memorable and meaningful images ever captured because
it put the spotlight on what was happening overseas where many people in the likes
of America did not know the extent of the war.
strong about the image is the fear coming from the fleeing children and the soldiers
who pass no remarks to the children as they herd them down the war-torn road. This gives a lot of emotion as the two subjects contrast one another. This
is what Nick Ut tried to capture and he did this well.
really takes control of the human sensorium in a way which lets us view what
happened a few seconds before the image was captured and a few seconds after. In
my mind I can play this image like a video because of the way the action has
been captured – soldiers and children froze while running/walking, smoke in the
background consuming the sky, screams and cries from the children by the
expressions on their faces. All these come together to give us more than just a
single image. Obviously the main subject of this image is the child running away
from the napalm unclothed to prevent being further burnt than she already is.
“So codes –
drawn from within and outside of photography – enable photographs to tell
stories, rather than simply to record or chronicle what lies before a camera in
the instant of clicking the shutter.” (Bell, 2002, p9).
When looking at Nick Uts image we have look what is beneath the
image, the signs and codes which we subconsciously decipher. The signifiers in
the image play a big part, these being the likes of the children crying, the
smoke and the soldier’s guns all signify pain, fear and terror in an area where
the inhabitants aren’t hostile. This is what plays on the viewers emotions and
gives the narrative of innocent people being terrorised by a war they have no